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Joel Edgerton Gardener of Eden in The New Descent into Hell by Paul Schrader. The article

Narvel Roth (Joel Edgerton) and the meticulous horticulturist of Gracewood Gardens. Devotion to the grounds of the beautiful and historic mansion equals the attempt to please his employer, the wealthy widow Ms Norma Haverhill (Sigourney …

Narvel Roth (Joel Edgerton) and the meticulous horticulturist of Gracewood Gardens. Devotion to the grounds of the beautiful and historic mansion equals the attempt to please his employer, the wealthy widow Ms Norma Haverhill (Sigourney Weaver). When the wife asks him to hire her capricious and worried great-granddaughter Maya as an apprentice, chaos enters Narvel’s spartan existence (Quintess Swindell).

Paul Schraderone Venice 79 received the prestigious Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievementis an artist who has never laid down the hatchet with regard to the recurring idea of ​​telling and staging his universe made of torn men and persistent delusions, lacerating obsessions and tenacious cleavages. From 2017 to today, thanks to the trilogy composed by First reformed, The card counter and now master gardener, brought to a new and posthumous degree of maturity the granite pivots around which revolves all his production as a director and screenwriter. He did it by stripping down and still cutting down to the bone the heart of the virile darkness of his art and enriching their films with new openings, stimuli, possibilities and interpretations.

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In master gardener it takes up the same core of the two immediately preceding films: at the center of the story is a man who is a solitary and impassive mask, mysterious and impalpable despite the exhibited and icy masculinity. He is a horticulturist and the garden he takes care of is the framework – thematic, metaphorical – that Schrader decides to put as an anchor of meaning around the film. Gardening is to believe in the future, that change will come in due timebut the garden, as it is offered to us, is also a place that can be granitic and schematic at the same time and rediscover the meaning – chaotic, broken – of a new order restored by becoming wildof one primordial garden ideal for rediscovering one’s lost personal Eden – since plants, just like men, absorb everything and perhaps regenerate themselves, knowing new forms and new lights (even if any transformation with Schrader always passes through blood).

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It is not difficult to see behind this scaffolding the keystone of the inspiration of Schrader and all his characters, since it will take very little to make Narvel’s parable slide towards yet another Schraderian incursion into the obscure repression of a past “religiously” stained with ancestral sins and all to be redeemed, crouched beneath the glassy surface of eyes and the mass of bodies but still ready to explode and spring forward. Compared to the previous one, much more remarkable The card counter however, everything is more predestined and predictable, as if the path already marked this time weighs more awkwardly than usual, and even the film has decided to follow it with a graphic coldness that seems to make instrumental use of a certain amount of chilling ugliness (an element that, among other things, also affects flower arrangements, nature dull more than death).

As always with Schrader, here too we return to lifelong movie-going obsessions, a Pickpocket it’s up to Diary of a country priest de Bresson, to the pages to be filled in the half-light of a semi-darkness and an anonymous office, plus his own body to use and save as toning journal, on whose skin are etched the curses and debris of the past, scandalous and obscene, and what remains of yesterday’s hell. The extra sense slides and scenes that really up the ante in master gardener they are kept to a minimum, especially according to Schrader standards, but it is necessary to register probably the most optimistic and romantic ending his cinema has ever given and grantedwhich tastes so much of the last and testamentary leave of a single and great journey that began with the screenplay of Taxi driver and closed only now.

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Photo: KOJO Studios

Read also: Paul Schrader, the Lion of Venice presents Master Gardener: “Gardening is the oldest metaphor in art”

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