The Garden (1990) (1990) Poster

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Among Jarman's best.
pdale3 March 2005
One gets the impression that other reviewers on IMDb have never seen or appreciated Jarman's other films, or any art film for that matter. This isn't for the intellectually inert. One also wonders whether they've taken the time to watch this one more than once -- its conflicted and dense, drawing on mutually contradictory sources for its symbolism, and attempting a synthesis or nexus.

The main themes are religion, love, oppression, family, and above all, time. Events and elements from every era of recorded human history co-exist together in one time and interact. While much of the film itself is done in the anxious, unsteady, rapid-moving style that Jarman came to be known for, other parts are filmed with graceful panoramic transitions. Throughout all the film, landscapes are replaced with artificial projections, perhaps to give the film an aura of unreality or allegory. It is at once both scripture and pornography, philosophy and nonsense, a gloomy warning and a hopeful swansong. I believe it to be one of Jarman's most un-acknowledged films. Don't let the harsh words of bad reviewers sway you against spending an evening absorbing this film -- its mesmerizing.
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Surreal and Dreamlike. A Poetic Tour de Force !!!
NateManD6 July 2005
Derek Jarmon films are always interesting. People seem to love his work or despise it. "The Garden" takes the persecution that Christ faced and puts it in modern times, or an unknown time for that matter. We have two homosexual martyrs who are persecuted like Christ, by the church. Tilda Swinton plays a modern day Mary who's chased around by ruthless Paparazzis. The film contains many strange visual delights. There is not a whole lot of dialog except for poetic narration. Like Jodorowsky's "the Holy Mountain", it's chock full of bizarre religious images. The set pieces and Costumes are extremely avant-garde and colorful. If you enjoy films that are a trip for the mind, you'll enjoy "the Garden". I felt that Derek Jarmon was inventive with his camera tricks and imagery. If you like bizarre art-house films with hallucinatory imagery, you must see this film.
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a great movie that deals about real living and hypocritical
gabriel_elekarma23 January 2007
Some people live, and many others are just jealous vultures.

The pictures and metaphors are made with a edge of a blade. Two kind of life are represented, and the cyclic way of life is very well pictured. I've seen a film on the modern times that have the same intensity is the film by Serge Reggio and Philip Glass (there is no words, pictures speak their selves), it's Koyaanisqatsi. The recurrent anachronisms are well interesting too, because all this theater is eternal. This paradox asks some real questions about the times we are living, and all illusion that suits. The way we lead our life, is the time we give themselves to be free.
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An interesting perception of the media on religion and sexuality
chikinlikinlou27 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I wrote my analysis on this so I think its fitting to place it here, I don't think there are any spoilers but just in case there is one someone notices I gave the warning. It does hint at other parts in the film:

The scene depicts the humiliation of two gay men, portrayed through the main sections of the New Testament. This segment I have chosen is rich in colours, symbolism and religious imagery and contains religious iconography. The deceased Derek Jarman was a well known director and screenwriter of unusual and challenging films, which were often longstanding stories that had been warped or had changed perspective.

The second section is set in what looks like a sleazy massage parlour. In it are the clear divisions of authority and power, shown in terms of colour and grandeur and their performances, shown in confidence and gesture. The two men, as seen in the scene before, have been found. It is clear that they are unhappy about this, since their freedom is no longer possible and so they cower into each other in the middle of the room. They are in the middle of the room to show that they are the centre of attention, the objects towards which the rich and powerful men are projecting their intimidation. As it is, they do not seem to be rejecting their sexuality, but staying true to themselves, which is what Jesus did. The first shot is of a dripping wet, hairy adult leg which is raised and a finger bounces off a point of his foot, the point where a nail is driven through in a crucifixion, this may be a reference to the amount of torture that is to come, the fact of their impending death. In the massage parlour there are a number of highly unattractive older men walking around half naked and rubbing each other with oils and sponges, laughing and joking, acting as if they is nothing more pleasing than to humiliate and taunt the two men standing before them. The main man which I presume to be Pontius Pilate is wearing a grand red dressing gown and nothing underneath but for a pair of small gold pants. The reason for this presumption is that half way through, when he washes his hands in the water with the other men. He sings 'down to the river Jordan' as he does so. The river Jordan is the river which was known then as the river that fed the 'garden of God' and, in the New Testament, Jesus was baptised in it. This image and act of washing his hands is reminiscing of the section in the New Testament 'I wash my hands of you.' Gold and red: The colours of wealth and power. The other men are wearing an odd assortment of garments including a drawn on paper crown, a towel, a gold dressing gown, a gold fan and sunglasses. All of these garments and objects give the men higher status; they are comfortable, assured of their wealth and power. They prance around stupidly with great confidence in themselves, laughing along with their acquaintances in a casual façade and make-believe happiness. The lovers, standing there, enduring their laughter, their flaunting. Perhaps thinking wistfully of before when they were able to be alone together, something that riches and power and status would not have allowed. Taking a different perspective, this scene could portray a kind of hell. One where the devil is the man implementing the basin as a drum and going wild. His mental abuse of the men is challenging them, each deranged, primitive scream saying 'stand up for yourselves!' The parlour would be a taunting, strange sexual fantasy invading them, taunting them. As though the parlour is in their heads and it is just the devil and them, the great illusion, the temptation or allurement. The capricious nature of the devil defies all previous conviction of him being merely evil; it is depicting him as a primitive, impulsive being that transcends evil. His actions become almost bestial.

Overall I find it and enchanted and fascinating picture from an artistic visionary - I loved it, but you should make up your own mind, this film is not for everyone.
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Two Men homophobically abused in a Boat
jaibo7 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Derek Jarman's jazzed-up home movie is very much a relic of its time. He mixes footage of his own extraordinary garden in Dungeness (one of the most remarkable & bleak landscapes in England)with dream-like re-enactments of New Testament stories given a gay spin. Church antipathy to homosexuality, the AIDS crisis, police and media brutality all spin around the screen in kaleidoscopic fashion, the images the film admits to be the dreamscapes of Jarman's own mind (he appears in his study and in his bed).

The trouble with The Garden is that, although it is often visually remarkable, it is also shudderingly obvious. The scenes in which respectable old tutors bash their canes and bosh through Bibles as a boy prances on a table, or where 3 Santas homophobically abuse a gay couple, or where a camp pseudo-Pilate laughs with his minions in a sauna are all crushingly obvious pieces of public schoolboy sketch-show comedy, cut-price Monty Python skits which presume that the audience always already agrees with what is being said, so we needn't bother to argue, analyse or comprehend why. It's agit-prop at its dullest, and even Jarman's considerable abilities as a visual artist and editor can't raise this into being a work of art rather than a work of jejune satire.

As for Jarman's vision of homosexuality, again he shows his class colours and sentimental bent. His gay boys are nice middle-class lads, neatly dressed and posing around like something out of Brideshead Revisited; they're very cute and noticeably silent. It's a very middle-England, excuse-making image of homosexuality, with no dissonance or awkwardness allowed, as if Jarman thought to be gay was to be a Jerome K Jerome-ish Two Men in a Boat.

I suppose that the film is heartfelt and rises from a comfortable middle-class man's one piece of anger, the anger that he isn't accepted by the establishment he is a part of. It was probably necessary at the time, but it sure is a dated relic rather than the piece of masterpiece cinema his admirers might claim.
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A breath taking film
kasper-33 December 1998
This is one of Derek Jarman´s best films. I have followed Derek Jarman´s career as a film maker and the only thing I want to say is that "THE GARDEN" is one of my favourite films.
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Make it stop
Bjork24 May 1999
Watching this movie gave me the feeling that I had suddenly gone insane for 90 minutes. Now I can say that some parts were merely awful while others were pretentious crap. The only things going for this movie are the presences of Tilda Swinton even though she doesn't speak, and the two leading men who were at least cute. But those points are not nearly enough to rescue "The Garden" from itself. Be warned.
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a lot of BEEPs in my description of The Garden
mrdonleone8 April 2009
I promised my mom a good movie. she trusted me because I know much about movies. I told her 'it's a movie about the Bible, about gay men, about AIDS, about paparazzi, ...' and she said 'ow that must be a good movie'. she we went to the film museum of Brussels and we watched The Garden. how disappointed we were. how boring it was! what was Derek Jarman thinking?! I wanted to go away, but my Mom said 'no, we've paid for the tickets, so we'll sit it through'. what a mistake that decision turned out to be! now we have both more than 3600 seconds less to live. it wasn't the theme of the movie. I adore experimental movies. I'm one of those idiots that love to see the full 8 hours of Andy Warhol's Empire. but this? no, I will never ever watch a Jarman picture again. I hope you'll never do that too. because it doesn't matter who you are, where you are or what you do. this movie proves only one thing: there are still some crazy people alive that pay money for something like this. it's BEEPing boring! I saw at least one other viewer leave the museum. I saw the others getting frickin' nervous. I saw my mom staring at her watch. and how did I see this?? because the movie was BEEP! I would rather BEEP myself than watching this torment another time. how is it possible producers wanted to invest in such BEEP? it's like BEEPing BEEP! also, the rules of death are not allowed in this one, because just when you think the torture of watching it is over, another 30 sadistic minutes await you. okay, so I wrote down what I think about this movie. but you know what's really BEEPing my brains? I saw a Jarman film already! yes!!! it's true! I'm ashamed, but it's true! and I knew all Jarman films were alike. I knew it! so how the BEEP did I ever think I would do my mom a favor by taking her to The Garden? anyway, don't worry if you do like The Garden. that is possible, because I guess there really are people who'd love to stare 20 minutes at different shots from the same sky, or watching 15 minutes full of pictures of grass in different colors. and if you like it, hey man, that's cool. but it doesn't change my mind at all. I think this movie is a waste of your time.
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A Cinematic Poem
charpentierking27 June 2019
I can't really disagree with reviewers who dislike this film. It really isn't for everyone. It's kind of chaotic, and some things really don't work very well, and yet... there's something extraordinary about it: the combination of religious motifs and iconography, the elemental meditative character, the bleak Dungeness landscapes, the sense that the director is really engaging on some deep level with important things. The plot is vaguely connected to the Gospel narrative, and so everything has a symbolic connection to that, and has to be interpreted in relation to that. It all adds up to something extraordinary - yes weird and not altogether coherent, but still fabulous and haunting. A cinematic poem.
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