The Constant Gardner – An African journey: Review
Fernando Meirelles’ “The Constant Gardner” (opened in Chennai/Madras in July) is based on Le Carre’s novel. Though not quite in the league of Meirelles’ earlier “City of God”, “The Constant Gardner” works at the level of a social treatise. The film’s strength lies in its ability to paint a picture of Africa that is at once beautiful and ugly, innocent and scheming. If the story of a gentle British diplomat, Justin Quayle, (played superbly by Ralph Fiennes), posted in Africa, is poignant, it is also a powerful study of anger and failure. This is dramatically brought out at the end.
Quayle is a content envoy, immersed in his garden and more in love with his plants than his attractive wife, Tessa (Rachel Weisz), whom he marries after a quarrel over politics and a breezy romance. Tessa goes to Africa with him, and is moved by the suffering and tragedy of the locals, and she along with an African doctor stumbles upon the misdeeds of a big pharmaceutical firm. It is only when she is murdered and the tragedy is clocked in a hint of her infidelity that Quayle leaves his garden to find the truth.
|Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz|
The story begins with Tessa’s murder, and is mostly narrated in a flashback, but has obvious shortcomings in the script. A letter, for instance, which a key piece of evidence, remains forgotten till the end. And the murder mystery itself appears to lose steam midway, perhaps because the director is enamoured by the beauty of the African landscape, and obsessed with making his work into a social treatise on Africa.
However, the movie does leave an impression in a few ways. British politics of arrogance is told with conviction and a bit of laugh. Fiennes is a classic actor, who gets into the character with consummate ease. His face conveys grief and a sense of helplessness. Without being verbose or unduly emotive, Fiennes gradually transforms Quayle from an absent-minded, self-indulgent, isolated-in his-own-world-of-leaves- and-flowers man into someone radical different.
The “Constant Gardner”, at two hours and nine minutes, requires careful viewing, and given the presence of mobile phone addicts in our cinemas, this will be no easy task.
(This review was posted on this website on August 11 2006)