Taming the Garden
Taming the Garden is not a Hollywood film. Award-winning documentary filmmaker Salomé Jashi creates a slow-paced, natural piece with political force to boot. When Georgia’s richest person and former prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, decides to buy a tree from the other side of the Black Sea and transport it to his own garden, everyone else must bend over backwards to grant him his wish. Taming the Garden shows the vast inequalities that still exist in a former communist state and is a thoughtful commentary on the rough realities of society.
The cinematography is understated and feels incredibly natural. The viewer sees the simple, bare houses of Ivanishvili’s neighbours, the dark, empty huts in which his workers sit smoking – and then Ivanishvili’s own garden with its collection of flamingos, birds of paradise and its vast orchard of trees, all imported from elsewhere. It feels as though the viewer has stumbled across a microcosm of society and is getting a glimpse into different people’s lives.
The strength of the documentary lies in its juxtaposition of the dramatic and the calm. Many scenes appear to be about everyday situations before the sinister undercurrents are uncovered, running beneath. We might see a tree casually being chopped down before the camera shows its owner crying amid the loss. There is a heart-wrenching tension between the blasé attitude of Ivanishvili’s workers and the emotional state of many of the local people having to suffer the consequences of the rich man’s actions. Jashi masters emotional shift with sensitivity and skill.
In fact, the whole point of Taming the Garden is the ridiculous, quasi-feudal situation of a very rich man ruining the lives of everyone around him, just for the sake of one more tree among the hundreds he already owns. There is a political force to the director’s piece that is incredibly poignant, and feels like a call to action. The film shows how little has changed in Georgia since feudalism, and that despite its long communist history, the lord of the manor still controls the lives of the peasants, even if they are now called by different names.
Taming the Garden is an important piece of social commentary and a brilliant work of art. While its slow pace means it is not for everyone, it is truly a cinematic diamond in the rough.
Taming the Garden is released in select cinemas on 28th January 2022.
Watch the trailer for Taming the Garden here: