Friday, January 20, 2006

The Constant Gardener

Focus Features
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Length: 129 min.
Format: DVD
Date Viewed: 20 January

The cinematography and editing style of Meirelles' City of God worked because it fit the flashy, over-the-top style of the low-life criminals in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Meirelles brings that same style to Africa and Europe for a thriller about diplomats and activists fighting drug companies, and, as expected, the style doesn't fit. Way overproduced (one Tony Scott is one too many; we don't need a second), the style here is distracting and Meirelles desperately tries to have it cover the lackluster story. His attempt failed.

The film focuses mainly on Justin Quayle's (Ralph Fiennes) attempt to learn why his wife was murdered. This leads him across two continents and through many death threats from the British government and pharmaceutical companies. He uncovers a conspiracy in which many innocent Africans were being killed as a result, and it is in existing between the conspiracy and the mystery of Tessa Quayle's (Rachel Weisz) death that the film failed.

The film reveals its sad apathy to the Africans when Quayle is shown the location of the mass grave of the murdered pharmaceutical guinea pigs and then completely ignores it. You see, he cares more about finding every detail about his wife's death, while finishing her all-important work by revealing the evidence she could never find and vindicating the dead Africans is a trifling matter that little troubles the white diplomat. Trivial lip-service is given to the plight of the Africans at the hands of the whites, seen in the UN airplane that will rescue only aid workers when a bandit gang comes to attack a village, and yet, the film subtly turns the attack back on the natives for being the cruel ones, ignoring the fact that the Europeans are a major part of the problem. The conspiracy story-line shamefully lets the conspirators off the hook for all save the murder of a white woman.

On the other hand, the second main story-line, that of finding out the truth of his wife, fails to engage us fully. It seems that they do love each other, but the origin of the relationship feels false and rushed. They meet and make love immediately after they meet when Tessa makes an impassioned attack on Britain's involvement in Iraq following a speech given by Justin and they recognize their yin-and-yang possibilities. She badgers him in to marrying her and taking her to Africa, but it's hard to shake the fact, indeed throughout the entirety of the film, that she does this only to suit her need and her desire to fight the good fight on the front lines though still within the British power structure. This is never addressed in the film, but the specter of their relationship's dubiousness lingers as Justin wanders around the world. Soon after they arrive in Kenya, the young couple are pregnant and madly in love, but it feels rushed and forced. For a full two hour film, having one main story-line feeling rushed and unconvincing and the other fairly unimportant leads to a rather dull and uninspiring experience.

An important film needs to be told about the disgraceful actions of pharmaceutical companies. I guess we'll just have to wait a little longer.


Post a Comment

<< Home