- Canadian Essential: Chosen by the Amazon.ca editors as one of the 50 Canadian Essentials in DVD.
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The Hanging Garden (Sous-titres français) [Import]
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The Hanging Garden (Sous-titres français) [Import]
Sporting the tag line "It's hard to go home 10 years after your death," The Hanging Gardens plot is built around a gay man returning to his Nova Scotia home--and his highly dysfunctional family--for his sister's wedding. It shares one notable quality with many other films on this list in that it refuses to provide easy answers and leaves it up to the viewers to decide what's real and what's fantasy. The Hanging Garden was writer-director Thom Fitzgerald's first feature, and was a co-winner of the award for Best Canadian Film at the 1997 Toronto International Film Festival.
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'The Hanging Garden' is in many ways, 'American Beauty' taken up north. There's family dysfunction galore, (...)repressed and rescued, symbolism around every corner and yes, the flowers. But whereas Sam Mendes' opus concentrates on the symbolism of the rose, Canadian Thom Fitzgerald throws a whole garden at us. Sweet Williams, Black-Eyed Susans, Violets, Laurels and even an Iris, the image of garden as family and flower as individual is brilliantly done here. And whereas Mendes focused on satirizing the surface of things, Fitzgerald has gone deep into some pretty dark territory.
Sweet William returns 'home' after a ten-year exile from his family and painful childhood. He arrives on the day his beloved sis, Rosemary, is to be married. Nothing out of the ordinary, just Sweet Willy's a little late. And for a reason. This Sweet William is a much different person than the one who escaped ten years ago.
As the story unfolds, the weeds of the family's past begin to poke up through the dirt. William returns to an alcoholic father, Whiskey Mac, who has succeeded in alienating just about everybody with his tyrannical selfishness. In fact, on the night of his return, William helps him to bed and then has a heart to heart chat with his mother, Iris. Iris blames her children and her abusive husband for keeping her in bondage, when in fact, her own exaggerated sense of duty has kept her locked up all along. She suddenly elopes from the house and sets the family upside down as to why she has disappeared.
As the search for answers continues, William sees the ghosts of his former unhappy self, an obese, self-loathing teen who can't come to terms with his own homosexuality, glide through the house and garden. William retraces the steps of his sorrowful childhood, from his first (...)experience (with the boy who would later become his sister's husband!) to the final climax of his self-hatred. William must confront the person he tried to kill ten years ago in the garden. Who was he? Why was he pushed to such an act? And how can he move on?
But his journey to freedom means facing some unpleasant truths from the past and present, not all entirely of his own making. Caught in flagrante delicto with a boy by his near-senile, Virgin-hugging Catholic granny, William is sent to the local prostitute. Sent by his mother no less! And ten years later, William learns that the foul-mouthed tom-boy brat at his sister's wedding is actually the fruit of that most unpleasant union. Moreover, his sister's groom, Fletcher, Willy's first love whose rejection led to the near-fatal suicide attempt, now desires the new, sexy William more than ever!
The film is convoluted, contrived and utterly confusing as plausibilty is stretched to the limits. It would be hard to find such mother as Iris, or a husband-to-be like Fletcher, but somehow, the film makes you believe it all could have happened. And that's the whole point. Whatever really happened in the past is never as clear as we would like it to be. Lines cross, colors bleed and images blur.
At first, the acting struck me as too low-key, but after two more viewings, the subtle performances of Chris Leavin (William), Peter Mc Neill (Whiskey Mac), and Seanna Mc Kanna (Iris), more than made up for the lack of big names involved. Also, the backdrop of Celtic music combined with exquisite camera work (close-ups of flowers and faces!) made the film a treat to watch.
Despite some pernicious weeds, 'The Hanging Garden' makes its case. In order for us to free ourselves from our past, we need to confront it and then bury it deep, for under every flower bed lies a whole lot of manure.
Every time I watch this small masterpiece, new layers of meaning turn up. The plot structure gives away some undiscovered truths, together with dialogue pointers I didn't notice before. That, to me, is a film worth seeing! When we showed this at our local film society, it got a great reception, one of the best we ever had for a film.
The Hanging garden is short, bittersweet and - sadly - true to life. You'll find something in this garden for you, whoever you may be!
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Fitzgerald gets so much right, that the loose, seemingly chaotic structure somehow makes some bizarre sense.Read more