What happens when nutty people keep visiting your garden (Záhrada reviewed)


Záhrada (Slovakia/France, 1995)

Seen: Saturday, 6th June 2009 (DVD, repeat viewing)
Runtime: 99′
Director: Martin Sulík
Cast: Marián Labuda, Roman Luknár, Zuzana Sulajová, Jana Svandová
Production House: Artcam International, Charlie's Bratislava, STV, Slovenská filmová tvorba Koliba (SFT)
Plot: (from imdb)

Jakub’s life arrived at a dead-end. He leaves his job, and gets into conflict with his father. The trouble just grows by his relation with a married woman. Breaking out, Jakub realizes the pleasures of the countryside in the old garden of his grandfather. He finds true love with an angel, and encounters various exciting moments of his new free life. Strange visitors arrive, and he wont get back to town anymore.

Scene From The Film

Impressions In Short
Why this film has barely been shown outside of Slovakia is one of the world’s greatest mysteries ;) It’s a bit art housey and crazy, but it’s rather charming and most importantly it’s fun!

More About the Film
I saw Záhrada for the first time about 9 years ago during a retrospective of Martin Sulik movies at a film festival. As his films received a great audience reaction (the reaction to Záhrada was particularly good), most of his films were promptly picked up by a Polish distributor. Záhrada eventually got some sort of limited theatrical release in Poland, but it was never released on DVD, so after years of waiting I finally gave up and bought the Slovak DVD edition which has English subtitles.
This “conspiracy” to make it as difficult as possible for people to see the film rather bewilders me. I’d understand if it was some sort of art film that was very challenging to watch, but it’s anything but that! It’s very sweet and charming.
The story mainly consists of Jakub sitting around in his grandfather’s garden while progressively more and more absurd things happen around him. He keeps having unexpected visitors of different sorts. They include a Shepard who explains he leads a nomadic lifestyle because otherwise God will make him a saint. And he also gets visited by men going by the names of Wittgenstein and Rousseau (the actors are even cast to slightly resemble the philosophers). There’s lots of references in the film, but if you miss them (and I think I probably missed about 80% of them :]) it shouldn’t matter.
The cinematography is simple, but quite beautiful. And the rural setting is used to great effect both visually and story-wise (cats have magical powers and ants are doctors).
On the whole, it’s a funny film which should leave you with a warm kind of feeling. It’s a bit slow though.

Yes! My mum liked it and was as perplexed as I am about why this film was hardly released anywhere. And generally speaking, I find my mum’s opinion a relatively good way of testing whether a wider audience will like a film *grin*

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