The Constant Gardener (2005)
Germany / Italian
"Love. At any cost.
"A widower is determined to get to the bottom of a potentially explosive secret involving his wife's murder, big business, and corporate corruption.
3-in-1 Film: Romance, Thriller, and Social Realism!
"The Constant Gardener" seeks to juggle three film stylesthe romance,
the thriller, and provocative social realism. On all three levels, the
film succeeds, especially with the latter.
Much credit should go to director Fernando Meirelles, who has
synthesized a virtual textbook of different film techniques. The uses
of set-ups, location filming, lenses, film editing, and close-ups were
simply dazzling. While the panoramic scenes of the African landscape
were breathtaking, there was a starkly contrasting approach to the
close-ups in the scenes in the city. The jittery, hand-held camera
sequences added to the dramatic tension and underscored the urgency of
coming to terms with poverty and disease.
The romantic portion of the film was anchored by the two characters
played by Ralph Fiennes (Justin) and Rachel Weisz (Tessa). Their first
meeting was dynamically presented as Tessa was a social activist
heckling Justin as he was making a political speech. When the hall was
cleared, however, it was Justin who was actually comforting Tessa after
her outburst. The juxtaposition of the placid, passive Justin versus
the fervent, hyper-kinetic Tessa was brilliantly established in that
The strands of thriller and social realism are inextricably tied
together in the film. As a whodunit, "The Constant Gardener" seeks to
uncover what actually happened to Justin and Tessa on their African
journey. At the same time, the main culprit that emerges is the heavy
hand of greed as the pharmaceutical companies exploit helpless victims
of tuberculosis for the purpose of testing and marketing an
experimental drug. At one point in the film, it is disclosed to Justin
that the pharmaceutical industry is no different than "arms dealers."
Another British film entitled "The Girl in the Café" appeared recently
on American cable television. That gem of a film is a low-budget
version of "The Constant Gardener." Both films seek to raise
consciousness about the tragedy of world hunger and disease. The title
of "The Constant Gardener" is an important one because of the time and
care taken by Justin in his garden both at work and at home. In the
process, however, he has ignored the urgent pleas of his wife, and he
has lost touch with the world crisis to which he is arguably a
The eighteenth-century French writer Voltaire ended his famous novel
"Candide" with the slogan "One must cultivate one's garden." This film
would appear to suggest that instead of tending our gardens, we need to
follow the lead of Justin and Rachel and see how we all might work to
help others right now.
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