Almost 30 years ago my mother took me and my sister to the movies. The movie was supposed to be a Saturday distraction, but it ended up following me the whole time. secret gardenProduced by Francis Ford Coppola and directed by Agnieska Holland, the film adaptation of a number of classic children’s novels by Francis Hodgson Burnett (the most recent adaptation is Mac Marden’s 2020 movie). But of all these movies, Holland’s is my favourite. Rewatching it as an adult amazes me at how well the film holds up.
The story is deceptively simple. Mary (Kate Maberly) is an English girl who grew up in colonial India. When her cold and unloving parents died in an earthquake, Mary was sent to England to live with her uncle Sir Archibald Craven (John Lynch). She finds Mary to be a stony, awkward child who gets along with the brooding and dysfunctional residents of the Micellthwaite mansion. But then Mary makes her two discoveries. The first is the key to a mysterious garden, the door of which is hidden behind an overgrown hedge. The second is Colin (Haydon Prowse), a cousin she didn’t know who suffers from an unknown illness and has never walked or left her room.
On the surface, the story is about the friendship that forms between Mary, Colin, and a boy named Dickon (Andrew Knott). Together, they clean up the garden and use it as a sanctuary from the stern housekeeper Mrs. Medlock (Maggie Smith) who teaches Colin to walk.
But within that story are tender contemplations of grief, trauma, and healing. Colin learns that his body is stronger than he thought and is able to form a relationship with Lord Craven. The story is told against the backdrop of the English countryside, forbidden mansions and breathtaking lush gardens. Maggie Smith is amazing as always and Marbury makes you want to reach out and hug her through the screen. Holland makes some interesting directorial choices, including a dream sequence and time-lapse photography Echo. secret garden A perfect and delicate little story, the garden serves as a lovely metaphor for Mary to take root and blossom.
Of course, the movie isn’t perfect. Colin, who miraculously left his wheelchair behind, must have been as exhausted and disabled in 1911 as he is now. But overall, I’m still moving as much as I did when I was 12.
But what has followed me the most over the last 30 years is the film music composed by Zbigniew Prizner. In particular, one of his songs, unfortunately titled “Shows Dickon Garden” on the soundtrack, is just his one-minute long melancholy piano piece. It’s simple enough to lend itself to endless embellishments and variations, some of which can be heard throughout the film. I have composed movie soundtracks.
secret garden is not a Christmas movie, but I vaguely felt it should be. Either way, my brain slots it in Christmas movies.maybe that’s why secret garden It does what some of the schlocky Christmas fares have tried and failed.It teaches us how to find kindness in a world that is often difficult and unforgiving.It teaches us how to peer into darkness and find unexpected light. will give you
Secret Garden (1993) is streaming on HBO Max.
(Main image: Warner Bros.)
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