*** Official THE CONSTANT GARDENER Discussion Thread

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Cameron Yee, Aug 31, 2005.

  1. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    I was thinking of going to see this after work today, but didn't make it. Probably Friday. I've been hearing the good buzz about it for several weeks now.
     
  2. Jason Roer

    Jason Roer Supporting Actor

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    Been really excited about this film for a long time now. My wife and I are seeing it tomorrow evening. Can't wait! My wife went to Africa a few years ago; it'll be interesting to hear her impressions on how it was captured on film.

    Cheers,

    Jason
     
  3. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    Saw this earlier today. I definitely second Janna's comments about the cast, they were all very good, and Wiesz in particular was really superb. I also thought that most of the story created a good balance between character development, the mystery/thriller aspects, and the social conscience elements.

    I do have some criticisms about the direction and the ending. Mireilles does compellingly capture the landscapes and the atmosphere, but the shaky camera stuff distracted me during some of the slower-paced character scenes. That sort of thing fits in nicely with the hyper-kinetic quality of the story in City of God, but I would have preferred a more straightforward approach for the more conventionally dramatic parts of this story.

    As for the ending:

    Thumbs down from me. Why the self-martyrdom? On a character level, surely his wife would have wanted him to serve the cause in any way he could, probably by going back to England as a full-time activist/whistleblower. Her cousin even says to him at one point that she had left him a ton of money, which could have directly tied in to that. Maybe it would have seemed sort of mushy, but the I'll-see-you-in-heaven ending we get sure doesn't seem any less hackneyed than what I'm suggesting.

    It also seems to me that for him to continue her work, and in a publicly visible way, would be truer to the social conscience material itself. Bringing down the commissioner guy is one thing, but who's to say that whomever takes his place wouldn't go on to participate in similar corruption? And isn't there other drug company/third world exploitation out there to be fought, outside of this particular scam that the characters were dealing with? Isn't part of the message that people of good conscience need to mobilize within the first-world nations, utilizing all democratic means they can? Letting yourself be killed to complete some sort of romantic circle of activist martyrdom seems excessively narcissistic in the face of so much more work to be done.


    Two more questions:

    (1) What are the surprises in the credits that Janna referred to? The credits got cut off at the showing I saw.

    (2) Another spoiler here:

    When they were all at the hospital after she lost the baby during childbirth, weren't they adopting that baby boy she was breast-feeding? But the baby completely disappeared from the movie after that. Huh?

    Whoops, my bad, forget about #2, someone just explained it on IMDB comments:

    Wanza's mother and younger brother took the baby back to their village with them. Tessa and Justin didn't adopt him--Tessa was just nursing him while she could because Wanza, in the next hospital bed, was dying/already dead.
     
  4. Quentin

    Quentin Cinematographer

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    You misunderstand, Haggai.

    There is no way for him to live. The second he decides to make that letter public he is a dead man. In fact, there is little likelihood he can get out of Africa alive - which is why he sends the letter on the plane and essentially acts as a decoy. It is likely they searched his dead body and did not find the letter and considered the matter closed.

    So, it is not self-martyrdom at all. He is a dead man. And, he is smart to act the decoy. And, he does it on his own terms - joining Tessa where she died and not being tortured.

    As for your ideas about the "battles to be fought". He realizes he can take down one man. Now. NO ONE could possibly "win the war" in the way you describe. And, this is pointed out twice in the film. First, she says "we can help these two, now." And,in the plane, he says, "we can help this child, now." He finally understands that his wife did not think she could or try to save the world. She tried to do what she could, NOW. And, so does he.
     
  5. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Quentin, I don't buy that outcome as the only way out.

    What about the brother? He essentially did what Fiennes character should have done.

    Once the story is out in the open (that's what the press is for), he would be all set. One might argue that the media is controlled by corporations as well and that they could squash his story, but that would be a tneous argument at best, drug makers don't control ALL the media in the UK. I mean, he is a diplopmat fer crissakes, and while the gvt is in on it, it's certainly not a widely known policy. Many a politicians would be outraged by the story, he could have used his small influence (yes we know, he was a quiet man with few friends) to get the story out.

    He should have at least tried. I find that ending was more driven by aesthetic concerns than a plausible or natural outcome of the story
     
  6. Jason Hughes

    Jason Hughes Supporting Actor

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    Holadem is correct...

    Donahue offered to get him out of the country. Between that and his friend (Ham?) he could have gotten out of Africa. After all, he got in under their noses. In the book he went from England to Italy to Germany to Winnipeg to Kenya, all without get detected, despite a massive search for him (granted they did find him in his hotel in Germany - but I think that was more because they were watching the woman and the organization he visited).


    A bit underwelmed, having read the book. Still the directing, acting and so on were all excellent. I was easily able to picture Fiennes and Weiz while reading the book (which had the same dumb ending). If LeCarre and the producers did not want to have a happy ending, fine, have him go down in a blaze of glory, not sit on a pile of rocks and essentially commit suicide.

    Oscar for Fiennes? Possible, especially since he played a character who dies,
    which always helps.

    Danny Huston was excellent as Sandy, although quite a bit under-used (at least when compared to the book).
     
  7. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    I'd have to disagree with you.

    The film is, at heart, a love story. By following the trail his wife was on, he got even closer to her than ever. I don't think he wanted to continue living at that point, regardless of what was going to happen. He did everything he could at that point to fulfill his wife's goals - got the letter to someone committed enough to do something about it (Ham), disgrace in a public setting the drug company doing this, and get her report out in the open. That done, he was ready to give up. I have to wonder if he expected his own funeral to play out as it had - I think he did.

    I thought it was a great way to provide closure, for the dramatic story and the love story.
     
  8. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Alex, I couldn't have said it better. The alternative ending being suggested would have been utterly inconsistent with the character we've come to know during the previous two hours.

    M.
     
  9. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    IMO, The Constant Gardener is clearly (at least at this point 2/3rds through the year) the best film of the year. It works as a mystery, as a thriller, and (most importantly) as a love story, and is immensely satisfying in all three guises.

    Fernando Meirelles proves City Of God was no fluke, navigating the viewer through this complexly layered material with ease. César Charlone's stunning cinematography shows us an Africa of heartbreaking squalor and incredible beauty.

    The performances are impeccable from top to bottom. Weisz & Fiennes are brilliant and should be sure Oscar nominees. Special notice also to Bill Nighy as the odious minister.

    TCG is being touted as the first major Oscar contender of the fall, and I have to agree. I see 8 likely nominations - Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, and Supporting Actor.

    As to the interesting discussion on the ending, I have to weigh in with Alex Spindler. Despite being perhaps illogical, the ending is true to the character and the material. In the end, you must approach this film from the heart more than the head.
     
  10. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    Well, I guess I'd say that:

    It depends on whether you think that he had really done *everything* he could do to fulfill Tessa's goals. Which, as I see it, would have gone on to include the public exposure of other cases of industry exploitation, beyond the one she was working on. Had she lived to see that case through successfully, I doubt she would have rested on her laurels, as it were. Since I believe that she would have done this--and that she would have been proud of him if he had done it as well--I don't find the ending to be consistent with what's been established about their characters and how they felt about each other. If he's come to the point where he's willing to give his life for the cause, which also embodies the love that he still feels for her, then why not continue pursuing the cause and possibly saving more people?

    I think it also relates to their different roles in society. He's basically a high-level bureaucrat, a cog in the big machine, while she's a full-time activist. He initially doesn't want to get involved because he only sees risk, and no reward, since his perspective is limited to "the official channels" and all that. Since she understands that about him, but still loves him, she doesn't want to get him involved, probably because of the risk it would pose to him and his career. But he comes to understand that the system itself has been corrupted, and that there's no way to fix it from the inside, the only option being to blow everything up by blowing the whistle in public. So if he dedicated himself to that full-time vis-a-vis other activists--helping them with organizing, resources, funding, a credible link to the public, etc.-- that could embody the development of his character and his devotion to her memory.

    Also, unrelated to our ongoing discussion about the ending--a little aside that I enjoyed was at the first party they went to, where Tessa started dressing down the various high-level corporate and government people in public. The spy character, Tim, says that he and his colleagues don't really know everything that's going on, because "only God knows everything. And he works for Mossad." [​IMG]
     
  11. Quentin

    Quentin Cinematographer

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    Bottom line:

    This is not a film about social crusading, and Fiennes is not a crusader (as some have already mentioned). I was trying not to bring that into the debate, but it is a valid point - what he ultimately does is exactly what his character would have done. You may want more heroism, but he's no hero.

    As for the actual debate about whether or not he COULD have gotten out, I still hold strong to my position - NO WAY. Ham isn't there to help him, everyone knows where he is, and the contract is out on him. You guys are crazy to think he has a chance. Even the MI-6 guy tells him he is a dead man unless he drops it, and he gives him the chance to drop it so he can still try to clean it up. Fiennes rejects the offer - signing his death warrant. Whether you buy it or not, the fact is that at that moment he is dead. He cannot and will not leave Africa. That is why that moment is in the story! It was his last chance. So, if you don't buy his death and think he should have gone on crusading, then blame his decision in that moment. Fortunately, his decision then and every decision thereafter makes perfect sense for who he is.
     
  12. Quentin

    Quentin Cinematographer

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    By the way...

    He doesn't "give his life for the cause." As I've mentioned, he gives his life the moment he rejects Tim's assistance. He gives it because he still wants to know the answers, not because he believes in the cause but because he wants to know why his wife dies. This is not just a love story - it's a story about a man discovering his wife. The mystery is not about the cause (only on the surface) - it is about finding out who Tessa was. When he finally has all the answers, he realizes she really loved him (and was protecting him) and realizes how much he really loved her.
     
  13. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    This thread is now designated the Official Discussion Thread for "The Constant Gardener" please, post all comments, links to outside reviews, film and box office discussion items to this thread.

    All HTF member film reviews of "The Constant Gardener" should be posted to the Official Review Thread.

    Thank you for your consideration in this matter.


    Crawdaddy
     
  14. Quentin

    Quentin Cinematographer

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    I removed spoiler tags since this is now a discussion board.
     
  15. Kevin Grey

    Kevin Grey Cinematographer

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    Postlewaith's character even effectively admits that he'll report exactly where Justin was when he got off the plane.

    Loved the film. Definitely my favorite of the year so far. Watching Mireilles' direction I get the same thrill that I imagine one must have felt seeing Taxi Driver back in '76. It's so great to see such a young director already in such control of his craft.
     
  16. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

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    I agree with Alex. Getting out with Donahue could only happen without the resolution of his wife's cause, without his understanding. He acted to finish what Tessa started, and I found the ending true and sad.

    Quentin nails the reason behind the ending.

    I agree with Kevin on watching Mereilles. Just fascinating and brilliant and wonderful.

    Frankly, I think the film is beyond awards. I don't care what it wins. I wish it well, so more people will see it. But I have seen very few films with plenty of Oscars come in the same stratosphere as The Constant Gardener.

    Utterly fantastic.
     
  17. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I saw this last weekend with my dad. Having seen the Transporter 2 the night before, I was hoping for a higher quality film. I left with mixed feelings.

    Certainly, the mechanical aspects were better: filming, acting, dialogue, and overal concept. But I also found it pretty boring. The story and characters suffered from the somnambulant pacing. Editing out 30 minutes to tighten up the story and excise superfluous conspiracy details would have helped a lot.

    I enjoyed the different take on the "evil corporations" story, but found it too slow to enjoy.
     
  18. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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    I found myself getting ahead of the story, so it didn't quite work as a mystery, but as a story of discovery (Justin finally understanding Tessa), it does work on that level. The price of discovery is what probably elevates the story to something above the ordinary, and it's only upon reflection that its story of discovery find its emotional heart in a sea of corruption.

    But I did have a problem buying Weisz as a 24 year old (I'd peg her age around 30-35).

    I give it 3 stars or a grade of B.
     
  19. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    Weisz is indeed in her mid-30's (34, to be exact), and it seems to me they could have fixed that problem by changing the single reference to her age. There was really nothing else about the story that required the character to be so young.
     
  20. MikeRS

    MikeRS Screenwriter

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    Not as great as "City Of God", but pretty damn close. [​IMG]
     

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