Death in the Garden (La Mort en ce jardin) Reviews
Sorry to say, the hoopla is not earned. I had a harder time sitting through this than any other Luis Bunuel film I've seen, and I've seen most of his less appreciated works. And people try to compare this with "Aguirre, Wrath of God"?
The heart of the plot is a small, eclectic band of people tramping through the jungle, trying to escape a South American village governed by a corrupt police force. The group includes a priest (Michel Piccoli, in his first of seven Bunuel pictures), a prostitute (Simone Signoret), a macho outsider (Georges Marchal), a deaf girl and her cook father.
The main problem is that the film takes about 50 minutes to arrive at this point. Before that, the story just wanders around the village, establishing characters and the fundamental conflict: a riot brewing after the police seize the diamond mine that provides everyone's livelihood. There is one notable flash of perversity, however: Marchal's character, Shark, enters the film by casually flipping his middle finger at the troops. A somewhat shocking inclusion, by 1956 standards.
Once the central characters are on the run, the story becomes a bit more interesting. The fugitives turn punchy with exhaustion and hunger, and a more primal clash of personalities emerges. Signoret has promised herself to the cook, but only because of the money he has stockpiled to open a restaurant. But she has second thoughts, and starts feeling drawn toward Marchal instead. Piccoli tries to be a calming presence, but is predictably ineffectual (this is a Luis Bunuel film, after all). The five hope to sail away to Brazil, but their internal tensions may become more of an obstacle than the police pursuing them.
All this sounds much more compelling than it is. It's one of Bunuel's earliest color projects, and plenty of gun action helps cover the incongruity of a Spanish director making a French-language film about South America. And there are two subversive insertions which can't be missed: a memorable image of a large snake being swarmed by fire ants (Bunuel always loves his insects!) and a strange, delirious anecdote from Piccoli about an old seminary classmate who liked to eat soft-boiled eggs. But the first half's tedium can't be overcome and, in the end, "Death in the Garden" doesn't feel like much more than a second-rate adventure movie.
With his film "Death in the Garden," Luis Bunuel makes a logical case for the randomness of the universe and against a higher power while also ironically making use of a deus ex machina. How else do you explain a priest(Michel Piccoli) on a fool's errand who is better dressed than anyone else? The military might be in their rights to kick out the foreigners who only seek to exploit the mineral wealth of their country but they are horribly brutal in their methods. The disparate group of characters at the heart of the movie, as more than one character points out, is all in the same boat, literally and figuratively, no matter their respective sins.
No estĂĄ mal, pero muy convencional para ser de BuĂ±uel, no me esperaba algo asĂ. Lo mejor es la segunda mitad.