DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEWs of The Constant Gardner, The Reader

 

Title:  The Constant Gardner

Release Date:  2005

Nationality and Language:  UK/Germany/Canada, English/German

Running time: 129 min

MPAA Rating: R

Distributor and Production Company  Focus/Scion

Director; Writer:  Fernando Meirelles, wr. Jeffrey Caine, based on novel by John Le Carre

Producer:

Cast:   Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Herbert Kounde, Bill Nighy, Peter Postlethwaithe

Technical:  1.85: 1 

Relevance to DOASKDOTELL site:  free speech, exposing corruption, AIDS, gay issues

 

This release is billed as a big early fall thriller, but really it is rather an art film, shot flat in what looks like HD video (Arri) with breathtaking scenery from Africa and London, to be sure (especially the deserts), but a lot of intimate husband-and-wife scenes and character confrontations and a mystery that rather reminds one of an Alfred Hitchcock film. The basic setup is that the wife (Rachel Weisz) of a British diplomat Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) goes to Kenya and starts investigating the misuse of a new anti-mycobacterial antibiotic for new strains of HIV-associated tuberculosis. She is murdered, along with her native driver Arnold (Herbert Kounde), and Justin begins a quest to investigate her murder on his own. He is warned over lunch in London not to (“a lot of strange things grow under rocks, especially in foreign gardens”). Now, the movie does a lot of its storytelling in flashbacks (they are not always clearly that), and we learn that Justin had great misgivings about his wife’s gumshoeing. At one point, when she returns home to their comfortable villa on the savannah, he bluntly asks her to stop. She retorts that this is her work, her life, her source of meaning. Indeed, how often does a personal crusade over which one has great passion have the potential to endanger others, especially unwilling family members—this point is critical to the meaning of the film. Nevertheless, Justin will go on the same quest himself, and only his own death will lead to the expose at his funeral. His investigation finds that Arnold was gay, but the film does not do as much with this as it could—homosexual acts are illegal in Kenya, and I wonder how gay life is carried out.  

The scenes of poverty in the film, along the railroad tracks, are even more graphic than those in “Hotel Rwanda.”

The Reader (2008, The Weinstein Company, dir. Stephen Daldry, novel by Bernhard Schlink, 122 min, R (almost NC-17), Germany/UK).  A teenager has an affair with a woman who had served as an SS guard, and then grows up to become a lawyer. But as a law student, he encounters her at the 1966 war crimes trial, when her "secret" (illiteracy) could save her. She is too ashamed to admit it, so he doesn't "tell."  Ralph Fiennes is the grown up Mike Berg, and Kate Winslet is Hanna.  Davis Kross transforms from 15 to 23, and has to grow chest hair before he has his own family for real. For details of the moral issues, see Blogger review.

 

Related reviews:. City of God   Hotel Rwanda   Darwin’s Nightmare

 

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