18 September 2020.
THE SECRET GARDEN **
If you watch this film as an adult you will love or hate it. Love because it will remind you of a wonderful book you read in your childhood. Hate because it is such a departure from that book, which you probably liked a lot, that you somehow feel betrayed.
The book, written in 1911 by Frances Hodgson Burnett, tells the tale of a young girl, a difficult child, who is orphaned in India from parents who didn’t love her and is sent back to England to live with her grumpy, grouchy uncle in his cold castle on the bleak Yorkshire Moors. He has reason to be grumpy and grouchy, having lost his wife, the sister of the girl’s mother, and having a son from her he has to look after who is lame and bedridden. In time the girl cuts through it all by finding a beautiful, secret garden in the castle grounds which has the power to heal them all.
That’s the book, and it’s a good story. Unfortunately, rather than leave the story alone the film jigs it about a lot, changing it mercilessly, introducing elements that detract from it rather than add and which, with its unnecessary length, complexity and rather wooden acting from Colin Firth as the uncle and Julie Walters as the governess, frankly leaves you waiting for the end.
But if you watch this film as a child who doesn’t know the book you will see it with different eyes. I watched it with two young girls and they were riveted. Forget the story, it has become over-complicated and hard to follow anyway, and just enjoy the colors, the magic, the beauty of nature, the animals, the pain and joy of childhood and above everything, naively done and last-minute as it is, the coming together again of a badly damaged family. They liked that.
So that’s the choice. For yourself there are better things to see. For the kids it’s a lovely treat.
SCHWESTERLEIN (My Little Sister) ***1/2 (vo German)
This tender, moving film is about a fusional set of twins – a celebrated theater actor in Berlin and his sister who is a playwright. He is charismatic, erratic, driven in his art, gay and dying of cancer.
She is a wife to the director of an international school in Switzerland, a loving mother to two children and utterly devoted to her brother. Being a few minutes younger than he, she is the “little sister” of the title. She has now taken her frail brother from the hospital in Berlin to her mountain home in Leysin to nurse him back to health.
That is the setting, but there is also her dedicated husband who feels lost in all this to and fro and has his own career decisions to make, while the twins’ mother, played by the brilliant Marthe Keller, a charming, egocentric mess back in Berlin, nevertheless seems to be the glue of the family.
The duo of Nina Hoss and Lars Eidinger, two of Germany’s finest actors, bring such passion and pathos to their roles as the twins that one is mesmerized by their love and complicity, however destructive it may be to those around them.
The Swiss directors Stephanie Chuat and Veronique Reymond (“La petite chambre”) wrote the film with Nina Hoss in mind, and have created here both an intellectual theatrical milieu and an atmosphere of family connections, memories and loyalties, with a clear eye for the strengths and vulnerabilities that accompany impending death. Despite its sombre subject, the film is really more about life and love, and it’s quite unforgettable.
ANTOINETTE DANS LES CÉVENNES **1/2 (vo French)
Once again, more French than this you can’t get. This scatterbrained comedy by Caroline Vignal, which was in the official selection of Cannes 2020, is about a young teacher (sweet-faced Laure Calamy) who follows her married lover on his family vacation and ends up becoming better friends with Patrick, the stubborn donkey that is assigned to her trek through the Cévennes in southern France.
She becomes quite a celebrity due to her innocent revealing of her situation, with some hikers egging her on her amorous mission, while others are incensed by her affair. Through it all she learns more about her lover, nature and herself. Some of her adventures and even her look and mannerisms hark back to Karin Viard and her role in the 1997 cult film “Les Randonneurs”, about a group of hikers in Corsica. Similar fun and innocent promiscuity…And that donkey is some character!
By the way, there is an exhaustive retrospective at theGRUTLI CINEMAS on the films of the brilliant Fritz Lang, who is one of the early greats of the Hollywood directors (such as Billy Wilder, Ernst Lubitsch and Michael Curtiz) who came over from Germany and enriched the artistic landscape in Hollywood. Some silent masterpieces as “Metropolis”, unforgettable film noirs and a few westerns (30 of them, dating from 1921 to 1960) will be showing every day until October 8th.
Pick up the informative program at the Grutli or check it out on their website, cinemas-du-Grutli.ch. This is a rare opportunity to see outstanding cinema – not to be missed!
Look up the films, times and cinemas on cineman.ch.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.