THE CONSTANT GARDENER is a thriller with a conscience and a romantic streak, both equally memorable. The DVD of it is memorable for what it doesn’t have: a commentary track. One could speculate endlessly about why that is, or one can move on to the bonus features that are available, including the usual deleted and extended scenes (all worth watching), and a behind-the-scenes feature called “Embracing Africa” that has a few nuggets of interest about filming on location in that country, where the action is set rather than elsewhere. That’s particularly apt when it comes to the slums, Kabira, where several key scenes of the story take place. (For more about that, listen to Rachel Weisz on her experience filming there). What most recommends it is the extended views of some of the more remote Kenyan locations, which are nothing short of spectacular.
Ditto “Anatomy of A Global Thriller”, which is much fluffier, playing like an extended trailer for the film intercut with the usual sound bites from all involved about how great it was to work on this project. Check it out strictly in the interests of completeness, but strictly NOT if you haven’t seen the film yet. Safe to view before seeing the finished product, is a piece on both how John le Carre came to write the novel on which the film is based, and on how it was turned into a film. No surprises, but nicely done and the chance to meet le Carre, even at a remove, is delightful.
The best part of a DVD of such a complex film is the quick reference to selected scenes that lets the viewer go back to moments that are later revealed to be key. This is best done after a full viewing, so as not to disrupt the excellent pace that director Fernando Meirelles sets.
Of course, with a first-rate film such as this, so rich and intelligent, there is no need for any embellishment at all, and one can be forgiven for thinking that is the reason for the lack of a commentary track. It also holds up extremely well to repeated viewings, there is time, for example, to reflect on the more subtle aspects of the script, as well as the many-layered performances by everyone involved. There are more surprises involved than just how it all turns out.