Ralph Fiennes gives one of his finest performances to date.
This movie is too steeped in the politics of emotion.
The Constant Gardener was one of those films that had so much politics on it’s mind and so many things it wanted to say, that when it finally began to deal with human emotions, the film was over. Ralph Fiennes plays Justin Quayle, a man who works with rich people and doesn’t ask too many questions about their business practices. His wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz) is an idealistic woman who wants to help the people in Kenya, the land where Justin has a decent amount of business dealings. When Tessa ends up dead, the person deemed responsible is a Kenyan doctor that she was friends with. As Justin begins to explore the mystery further, it is here that he finds the worst possible answers. His character is transformed from a man who ignores other’s scruples, to one who can no longer disavow his own.
I thought this movie was good but I feel it took a bit too long for Justin’s transformation. So much of this movie seemed to be explaining the political situation in Kenya, that by the time I felt that it got the point across, there really wasn’t any time to see a reaction from our main character. Fernando Meirelles’ City of God was a fast paced film that really moved. It didn’t have any other agenda other than telling the story. As a result, the film worked in an amazing way. While I know that Meirelles doesn’t want to repeat himself, I would hate to think that he made something as groundbreaking as City of God, only to make films like The Constant Gardener.
Deleted Scenes and Extended Scene
The deleted and extended scenes used here don’t really illuminate the movie that much, but I can appreciate the fact that the filmmaker wanted them on this DVD. As a movie like The Constant Gardener is a bit hard to follow, I would think that they would overshoot so as to have numerous ways to convey information in the editing room. While the extended scene just elongates the action of that particular part of the movie, it does add a tad more depth to these already pretty clearly drawn characters.
Embracing Africa - Filming in Kenya
This featurette looks at what the environment is like shooting a movie in Kenya. The cast and the crew discuss what it was like shooting in this foreign land, how being “on location” adds a lot of authenticity to a film like this and generally what it was like for all of them to work together on this project. This featurette gives us a glimpse of what Kenya is like and also explains how it is possible to be able to shoot a movie in such a place.
John Le Carre: From Page to Screen
This was a very interesting featurette as it looks at how a film is adapted from a novel to a movie for the big screen. There is the usual talk of why they wanted to make the film, what elements the novel has in it to make it a good film and how they went about turning the manuscript into a screenplay. As someone who loves writing, and especially loves stories about how things are created, I found this to be a very entertaining and informative featurette.
Anatomy of a Global Thriller
This, like the Embracing Africa featurette, is a behind the scenes look at how this movie was made. We get hear from the actors, the director and others about what it was like to make this film. The actors talk about their characters, the working conditions and generally make it seem like they felt compelled to do this movie. While there isn’t anything about this “making of” that grabbed me that much, at the end of the day I think watching this before I initially screened the movie might have helped me enjoy it more. I think it would have answered some of the general questions I had as I was watching this movie.
1.85:1 - Widescreen. There is none of the City of God style in this movie. This film plays well, it isn’t really boring, it just tells it’s tale in a way that takes a long time to get to the point. However, it is very lush and authentic. I never doubted for a moment that our main characters were where the story was saying they are, and on top of this, I always felt like I was seeing a situation that hadn’t been dressed up too much. As if the actors had been taken to this location, placed in front of the cameras and captured with as little set dressing as possible.
Dolby Digital. I don’t think there was anything that amazing about the sound. The writing for this movie is good, it felt as authentic as the look of the picture, but other than that the audio didn’t really grab me. This movie just plays very easily. That is the way it most closely resembles it’s predecessor, City of God. This film is almost quiet at times and I guess one could see this as a way of it getting into the head of Justin Quayle. All in all, the sound on this movie seems to serve is little more than an underscore of what we are seeing on the screen.
The front cover features a shot of Ralph Fiennes as well as one of Rachel Weisz. There are also some shots from the movie that help to give it an almost epic feel. It is also layered with critic’s quotes. The back cover contains some more pictures from the movie, a description of the film, a “Bonus Features” listing, a cast list as well as some technical specifications. This artwork creates a general sense of intrigue which I guess should probably peak DVD consumers/renters interest.
I can’t really explain it but there is something about Rachel Weisz that is lost on me. I used to think she was a really good actress, but a decent amount of that mystique has been chipped away. Maybe she was almost too believable in the role of Tessa? Maybe I don’t think that she adds anything to the movies she does and that it could be anybody playing these roles? Whatever the case, I think she needs to do something where she steps out more as an actress. Where we can see her carry a movie because thus far she seems to only have been a small part of the ones she has been in. Ralph Fiennes does some very good work here, but I suppose I wanted to see more of him striking back against the people who have done him wrong.
At the end of the day, the resigned ending of this movie is enough for me to be able to recommend it to other people. While I spent a lot of my time during The Constant Gardener trying to put together the situation, ultimately Justin’s final actions made me realize just how far he was willing to go.
The Constant Gardener was released August 31, 2005.