Writer: Nurliana Kamaruddin
Writer Ratings:Overall: Cast:
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Perhaps it is safe to say that "The Constant Gardener" is one of the most intriguing movies to hit Malaysian shores this year. In all the muddle of blockbusters that we have had and the countless number of mindless entertainers, it is something to be carried away by a story that affects you not just as a movie per se, but as a story carrying a message far deeper than one could ever expect to digest.
The story starts with Tessa Quayle (Rachel Weisz), the wife of Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), diplomat and human rights activist, who was murdered in Africa, somewhere in Northern Kenya. When she was alive, Tessa was what some would consider a 'controversial' person. She spoke passionately on human rights and threw herself into helping the people of the African continent, something that her mild-mannered husband was apt to ignore.
Following her death, everyone thought Justin Quayle would mourn her and then leave the matter at that, but rumours surrounding his wife's death and proof of her supposed infidelity left Justin confused and restless. Driven by his initial curiosity, the usually low-profile Justin embarks on a personal quest to find out the circumstances of his wife's death and along the way, uncovers a conspiracy bigger than he had expected.
The path taken by this story is conceivably most unsettling in the fact that this is a reality that people actually live in. In this world where money talks, life has become, as a character in the story puts it, 'so cheap'. It makes you question the path of large Multinational Corporations where the idea of profit reigns supreme, even over the lives of countless innocents.
To term the "The Constant Gardener" a thriller is slightly misdirected because this movie focuses less on action and gun loaded shoot-outs and more on the psychological drama of coincidences and situations. Conveyed more in the rather intimate shots of hand-held cameras and interspersed with flashbacks throughout, the narrative weaves itself through Justin Quayle's existence and conscience as he fought to understand his wife's work and what she was fighting for.
Director Fernando Meirelles sweeps through Africa, bringing to life both the beautiful and ugly side of this continent - the lush and more often than not barren landscape, the innocence of the population and the harsh grip of poverty as well. Diseases, famine, violence; this was all wrought into "The Constant Gardener" in an almost subtle way yet the message was carried through in every scene.
This movie forces you to contemplate the situation of the world through the eyes of those who fight for it and to perceive it through the eyes of those who face the horror everyday. How many of us carry on in our lives cocooned in the bubble of our own existence without giving so much as a single thought for those who might have to walk 40 kilometres a day under a scorching sun all in order to find medical help?
As a movie, "The Constant Gardener" is a work of art in all its soft edges found in each scene, the grainy effect that complements the mood throughout and the magnificent cinematography of Africa. As a story and a message, this movie becomes, in a way, almost like a call for attention in the most disturbing of ways.
At the end of the day, the lingering question that remains is this - is human greed such an overpowering evil that it can even overlook the lives of other human beings? The resounding 'yes' that this movie gives leaves me scared out of my wits at the thought of all the horror we are capable of. And judging from the complete silence from the rest of the audience that greeted the movie when it ended, I think "The Constant Gardener" struck a chord in them too.
A must-watch.Cinema Online, 23 September 2008