Death in the Garden

Death in the Garden

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Luis Buñuel followed 1955’s little-known That Is the Dawn with the Mexican-French co-production The Death in the Garden (also known as Gina), a precursor of sorts to his equally minor Fever Mounts in El Pao. In a nameless Latin American country, a foreigner named Shark (Georges Marchal) is caught in the middle of a political uprising between a group of oppressed diamond miners and the malicious Captain Ferrero (Jorge Martínez de Hoyos). Amid the turmoil of this banana republic revolution, Shark joins an all-star group of political refugees on a boat ride to an elusive Brazil. Though the film’s first half is fraught by the heavy machinations of plot, things take a turn for the surreal when the refugees escape into the jungle (the titular garden). After going around in circles for days, Shark discovers a downed plane full of food and luxury items, and in what is the most blatant indication that Buñuel is behind the camera, Father Lizardi (a then unknown Michel Piccoli) thanks God for this miracle only to be quickly reminded by Shark that some 50 people had to die for that miracle. The prostitute Djin (Simon Signoret) is equally humbled by hunger though it’s not long before she and Lizardi are shot dead by one of their own. This tale of heated passions and broken dreams was noticeably compromised by an insufferable shooting schedule. Buñuel had little financing for the project and was burdened by the constant changes being made to the script. More troublesome, though, was Signoret. According to Buñuel, the unruly actress missed her husband Yves Montand so much that “on her way to join us in Mexico, she slipped some Communist documents into her passport, hoping to be turned away by American Immigration.” Signoret’s frenzy becomes her character’s, enervating an otherwise humdrum melodrama.

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DVD
Runtime
104 min
Rating
NR
Year
1956
Director
Luis Buñuel
Screenwriter
Luis Alcoriza, Gabriel Arout, Luis Buñuel, José-André Lacour, Raymond Queneau
Cast
Simone Signoret, Charles Vanel, Georges Marchal, Michel Piccoli, Tito Junco, Raúl Ramírez, Luis Aceves Castañeda, Jorge Martínez de Hoyos