"...an 'ambitious' film whose best moments prove more interesting than its plot." - Peter Hogue, Movietone News
Amid a revolution in a South American mining outpost, a band of ill-starred fugitives (a roguish adventurer, a local hooker, a priest, an aging diamond miner and his deaf-mute daughter) are forced to flee for their lives into the jungle. Starving, exhausted and stripped of their old identities, they wander desperately lured by one deceptive promise of salvation after another. Shot in brilliant Eastmancolor and featuring a star-studded cast, DEATH IN THE GARDEN is a pulsating adventure film, alive with Surrealist gestures, making it classic Luis Buñuel.
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Bunuel delivers in this full color existential adventure. Simone Signoret is a fine actress and beautiful to watch, especially her blue eyes in magnificent color. I really liked this film.
Maybe I'm not remembering correctly, but there was no clear "garden" in this film, though there was a lot of unmistakable death. I guess the jungle was the metaphorical garden. To call such a miserable and dooming place a "garden" is particularly cruel, and goes along with the surprising ruthlessness that threads though the film.
The fact that this film was Bunuel's stab at genre filmmaking reminds me of Werner Herzog's BAD LIEUTENANT. With both films, a director known for his originality leaves strange marks on a kind of film you thought would be predictable. It's interesting that both interrupt the narrative with unsettling close-ups of reptiles. You can always count on those cold-blooded, scaly creatures to make an audience squirm.
My favorite part was the shot of the Arc du Triomphe. It was both serene and jarring, showing the city as a paradise out of reach in the suffocating jungle--an interesting inversion of the usual representation of paradise as inherently "natural."
Death in the Garden carries many of Bunuel's signature themes. Besides having a complex story line, it has moments which are surreal, moments that epitomize both class and religious struggle, moments that are absurd. The movie is gorgeously filmed in Eastman Color and is action packed. Very though provoking.