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The Constant Gardener Coming in August

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UPDATE – NEW TRAILER (WMP) (QuickTime)

A murder mystery-political thriller, The Constant Gardener, directed by Academy Award-nominated Fernando Meirelles of City of God fame, and starring Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient, Schindler’s List) and Rachel Weisz (The Mummy movies, About a Boy, Runaway Jury, Constantine) will be a late addition to the summer movie sweepstakes.

Based on the best-selling John le Carré novel, in a remote area of Northern Kenya activist Tessa Quayle (Rachel Weisz) is found brutally murdered.

I object strenuously to such mistreatment of the lovely and diverting Weisz.

Tessa’s companion, a doctor, appears to have fled the scene, and the evidence points to a crime of passion. Members of the British High Commission in Nairobi assume that Tessa’s widower, their mild-mannered and unambitious colleague Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), will leave the matter to them. They could not be more wrong.

This career diplomat’s equilibrium has been exploded by the loss of the woman he was deeply devoted to. They were opposites whose attraction sustained a marriage, the memories of which now spur Justin to take decisive action for the first time in his life and diplomatic career. Haunted by remorse and jarred by rumors of his wife’s infidelities, Justin surprises himself by plunging headlong into a dangerous odyssey. Determined to clear his wife’s name and “finish what she started,” Justin embarks on a crash course to learn about the pharmaceutical industry, whose crimes Tessa was on the verge of uncovering, and journeys across two continents in search of the truth. His eyes are soon opened to a vast conspiracy at once deadly and commonplace, one that has claimed innocent lives – and is about to put his own at risk.

Director Fernando Meirelles states, “The chance to take on some of the pharmaceutical industry was only one of three elements that made me want to direct The Constant Gardener. Another was the chance – the choice – to shoot in Kenya. And it is also and fundamentally a very original love story; a man who marries a younger woman, and it’s after she dies that he truly falls in love with her and goes looking for her. It’s a beautiful tale, with a touch of the existential to it.”

“At first glance, Justin appears very passive,” Meirelles continues. “He’s a civilized British gentleman, a polite diplomat who lives by a code. He doesn’t fully know what Tessa does; sometimes he would like to interfere, but he doesn’t, not because he’s weak but because he has an agreement with her, and he lives by that code as well. We were all interested in exploring just why Tessa was interested in Justin. She needs an anchor and Justin keeps her sane; he’s so controlled, and she’s so passionate.”

“For me, theirs is a ‘retrospective love affair,’” concurs Ralph Fiennes. “There are two equal parts to this movie. On the one hand, it’s a political thriller about corporate wrongdoing, malfeasance and manipulation. On the other, it’s about the relationship between Justin and Tessa Quayle. Justin’s journey traces not only what Tessa was investigating; he’s also playing detective about their relationship. This man rediscovers and re-assesses his own relationship with his wife. It’s a wonderful part, because he goes from being a reticent nice guy to being someone who is forced to confront some pretty tough truths about the world. I hope that the audience sees him as a kind of Everyman.”

Rachel Weisz adds, “The love story and the political thriller element are completely interlocked – one doesn’t happen without the other, and that’s the cleverness of both John le Carré’s novel and Jeffrey Caine’s adaptation. Because of Justin’s love for Tessa, he goes on a journey of discovery where he reaches a new level of self-knowledge, but he also discovers a huge political scandal.”

The the Focus Films release was adapted from the le Carré novel by Jeffrey Caine and also stars Danny Huston, Bill Nighy, and Hubert Koundé.

The international filmmaking team behind The Constant Gardener includes producer Simon Channing Williams (Academy Award nominee for Secrets & Lies), director of photography Cesar Charlone (Academy Award nominee for Mr. Meirelles’ City of God), editor Claire Simpson (Academy Award winner for Platoon), production designer Mark Tildesley (28 Days Later…) and costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux (Dirty Pretty Things).

Check out the trailer in QuickTime here or Window Media here. The Constant Gardener will be released August 26.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    You object strenuously? Must be tiring.

    Le Carre books make middling films, or beautiful ones. The Tailor of Panama was a disaster.
    The director/actor promise to make this interesting. City Of God was stunning.

    I wonder if “Absolute Friends”, his more recent book set in the Iraq milieu will make a good film.

  • John Matthews

    “a conspiracy more far-reaching and deadly than Quayle could ever have imagined.”

    Yeah, convincing people he was not the worst Vice President of all time. :o)

  • http://spaces.msn.com/members/dorksandlosers Tan The Man

    City of God was a great movie. I’ll be watching this specifically because of him. Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz are good actors too.

  • Eric Olsen

    could be a good one – yes Aaman, my objector is sore

  • http://darkeroticism.blogspot.com/2005/06/indomitable-islamist-female-bloggers.html swingingpuss

    heh, hope Dawn knows how to sooth the sore objector ;)

    I couldn’t stop myself from saying that.

  • Eric Olsen

    updated with more of the plot and quotes

  • Eric Olsen

    UPDATED WITH NEW TRAILER

  • james

    Constant Gardener – The Best Movie I’ve Seen in 2005
    Posted on 07.25.05 by Blake @ 8:08 pm
    I highly recommend the movie “The Constant Gardener.”

    By: Blake
    Rating: 4 out of 4 stars
    Director: Fernando Meirelles (”City of God”)
    Starring: Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz
    Based On: A novel by John le Carré

    Spoilers at the very end of this post.

    First things first, might I say loudly from my lone window to you all – avoid the trailer(s) for this movie at all cost. Walk into the movie as fresh as possible.

    This is Fernando Meirelles most assured, uncalming and mature work to date… the language of cinema has never been as beautiful and haunting as it is in “The Constant Gardener.” It is sure to garner controversy… sure to be intially understood with its non-linear editing (which for some could be too off-putting to be engaged)… but over time this will trully be one of the most beloved films in all of cinema history. As wave after wave of movie euphoria that continue to hit me, continue to sweep over me from seeing this movie for the first time last night… I will attempt to write this review. Fernando Meirelles kaleidoscope of world affairs, humanity, corporate greed and love in “The Constant Gardener” beats with the passion of Antonioni at 99 mph. Those that feel this movies full effects will get up out of their chair afterward not only entertained, but moved and enriched as human beings… forever given a new set of eyes to view the world. I have never felt so much hope and heartbreak in the span of two hours as I have experiencing “The Constant Gardener.” I’ll never be the same. Unlike others that have seen this film… I really felt it from the first moments of Justin seeming to witness Tessa and Arnold walking off into a blurred abstract haze.

    The more I sit and think about “The Constant Gardener”, the more I appreciate and unravel its many layers (both obvious, understated and barely hinted at). It’s a movie that will continue to grow and having its meaning expand as I watch it again and again. This review is just from one sitting.

    Fernando Meirelles was supposed to be at the movie screening I was at but had flight delays… which is a shame as I had several questions I would have loved to asked him about the movie. The movie says it was funded from the UK Film Lottery and I’ve no clue about what that is… so I assume Fernando Meirelles got great creative control, to make this instead of doing what he had originally planned next “Intolerance, The Sequel.” Be sure to stay through the end credits as there is some messages of note towards the end after the song credits, from the filmmaker as well as one from the author.

    I think many could easily write not a review, but an entire book after one viewing of this movie. I’ve written some brief notes… and so much about the movie I’ve left out of this, things that I love, the progression of worldliness, humanity, and causes by Fernando… and many many more. I can’t wait to see this movie again. What a treat cinemagoers will have on August 26 when this is released next to “The Brothers Grimm” (which I found a highly rousing fantasy with several hilarious Monty Python-esque moments, yet ultimately uneven but still good). Two of the best movies of the year released on the same day.

    This movie is a rung below “City of God”… but still equally as impressive – the inspired cinema of “The Constant Gardener” had me floored largely throughout. I’d write too many pages if I noted how brilliant so many of scenes of the movie were shot. Oscar for cinematography has a very strong early contender in César Charlone. One shot that stands out is a great panning shot of Ralph Fiennes walking that I’ve no clue how they shot it, a fast dolly or someone hanging out of a car moving 60mph+? The nonconventional liberating framing, spacing and movement of the shot captures a moment of film in a way that I haven’t already seen or felt before. There are several shots where the camera is placed outside the space/room the characters are in… we see the characters interact from a window looking in or down the hallway. Fernando Meirelles by doing this, makes the audience feel like they are inside and a part of the movie, experiencing its world and characters. I felt like I was breathing inside each frame of film as the movie unwound. I wasn’t sitting in a chair, I was lurking outside a window, spaced down a hallway, I was walking alongside a town I’ve never been to. The overall point of view the movie is shot in seems not to be just of Fernando Meirelles fully imposing himself, but a point of view for the audience as if it were travelling along each step of the way.

    This is a movie where you can barely even take a blink… as you might miss an important detail/clue. The editing is done largely elliptical (a la “21 Grams”)… and THANK GOD, it never attempts to overexplain anything – in fact it dares you to keep up without ever rushing. The first viewing for many might be a bit confusing… but upon repeat viewings the movie will definitely all add up.

    Alot of frames of the film appear to have been digitally altered which enrich the flavour of the visuals and heighten the experience without artificializing it, in several sequences of editing combined with an immaculate sound design had me saying “WOW” out loud… the one that stands out at the moment and believe me there are many… is the train sequence. Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) is on fumes… his energy has long since passed, yet there is a stirring of his soul that is moving him along and with one furious display of sound and visual editing, we witness his impassioned will to carry on in the face of hopelessness.

    The use of locations is both epic and intimate. The set designs are all amazing, there are so many rich elements added to them that provide further depth to the characters and its story.

    The score and many songs are highly effective and haunting. This soundtrack is a must own. The score for me was the eery of a ghost tale combined with the spirit of “In the Mood for Love.”

    Many passages of dialogue are some of the meatiest and cutting I’ve seen in a film in a long time. Characters don’t speak like movie characters… they speak like people do in real life.

    This is by far the best performance Rachel Weisz has ever done and I would love to see her get Oscar consideration (especially in one aspect which I highlight below in the spoilers)… as well as Ralph Fiennes who gives such a brutally tender performance… his work here might seem to stiff/understated but I think the appreciation one has for his performance will grow the more times you see the movie. Since its not told linear, you don’t always know the emotional state of Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) in a given scene or moment… but when you start piecing the movie together as a whole, how he interacts, moves and speaks at various parts forms one hell of a performance. Justin Quayle by most any other actor would have been one big drivel of melodrama. Ralph Fiennes makes his work here seem effortless… broken heart and lost soul beat to a pulp, his love for Tessa (Rachel Weisz) carries him through and forever changes him. The loss of Tessa, gives him the first day of his life that he is ever trully alive. We experience his eyes begin to open with this realization, we experience the unyielding pain of loss and ultimately we get several shades and beats of a character in a movie that rarely ever get displayed. By the end Justin is no longer content witnessing the atrocities of life pass before him without raising a finger… he leaps out to make a difference, to be a participant in life and not just an observer. To hell with whatever fate has in store, his living requires nothing but love, in its pursuit of justice.

    Fernando Meirelles has expanded upon the film grammar of “City of God” – this world of “The Constant Gardener” is equally as emblazoned, vibrant, rich characters, intimate and emotional… yet an even richer and more mature dose of cinema… and filled with landscapes, atmosphere and sounds that are characters all their own.

    With the huge weight of expectations of “The Constant Gardener” it will no doubt prove more bumpy with its maturity, for people wanting the sheer chaos of “City of God.” As time goes on and audiences experience the movie multiple times, I think the appreciation for this movie will grow. This is definitely like the cliche bottle of wine analogy… something that gets better as it ages… and for that, this is the best bottle of wine of a movie you’ll get this year.

    This movie is a cautionary tale of corporate greed and AIDS. Regardless of your political leanings the very politically charged atmosphere of the film, is sure to alienate. One passage of the movie alone must have been updated to a current issue(s) and will surely draw out debate. Whether you hate or love this movie, it will most importantly generate debate, open up discussion that should have already existed in the world… open up eyes and voices… creating fresh dialogue and hopefully thoughtful action. Not to many movies stay with you even from the trip from the theater to your car as you leave… “The Constant Gardener” will keep you thinking for days after… and if you travel with a large group you will no doubt be like me like I was during one of the many past Tarantino Film Fests, up until nearly noon the next day still talking and dissecting the movie with several others, with cup after cup after cup of coffee.

    SPOILERS below
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    SPOILERS

    After reading many of the book reviews, seems like the same flaws the movie has, was the same criticisms people had for the book – the ending and bad guys.

    The ending, the way this movie/story resolves itself will more than likely be the huge dividing line between people that love or hate it. Upon initial viewing I was a bit taken back by it… but upon reflection I think the ending is perfect, if not unconventional and completely non-rewarding – we have a hero making a poignant last stand… but the way we see Ralph Fiennes fate handled we do not get an easy feel good ending to release the stress and tenseness built up from experiencing the movie, we do not get that feel good release… instead we get something that juxtaposes a feeling of absolute beauty and absolute hell. The tone on the final act does not have gripping teeth to seal its bite… the tone is understated, yet filled with the flourish of a dreamer in his last hours of life. The creative choice to remove the typical exclamation at the very end, was refreshing… I’m sitting there fully expecting something to happen and it doesn’t – fade to black. I’m very curious if in an earlier edit of the movie this was edited in the movie, or if they knew all along they were going to edit the very end shot before fade to black this way.

    The bad guys here are as evil as they are needed to be, without ever trully having to be over the top – they merely use the barest of words and actions that twist like a samurai blade to the heart. The bad guys aren’t shown as the cliche charactertures – they are evil simmering in the real world with shades of gray and sprinkles of humanity lost or barely breathing, blinded by lust of money and greed for self.

    Tessa (Rachel Weisz) I hated. You see her purposely and willingly break someone’s heart… but by the end of the movie you come full circle re-evaluating everything about her you thought you knew… and along with it a new appreciation for her, even if you don’t agree with her actions. For Rachel Weisz to pull off this full circle without feeling cheated, without feeling like you have just unjustly viciously attacked her for what she appeared to be early on… is quite an achievement and as such she deserves strong Best Actress Oscar consideration.

    Keep a look out for Pete Postlethwaite, who is great as the character who shows Justin in more ways than one… where the Devil lives.

    So the critics will be out crying that this movie is a mess, an uninvolving predictable mess. I think the harshest of criticisms the movie will get will be more a reflection for someones impatience with a highly non-linear movie. On the political side I think some will scream, when in fact all they are saying this movie doesn’t reflect their own political views. There is always going to be the personal, culture and life lived bias that will seperate one’s movie experience from another. This movie would easily be more commercial and well received if it was edited and told completely linear and the bad guys burned at the stake instead of just slapped on the hand. With that said, this movie is an amazing work of art that is simply perfect the way it is, however flawed… it will only get better over the course of time. Most movies fleet memory on the trip to the car after a movie.

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