From: E.K.Bensah II (TWN-Africa) [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: mercredi 14 septembre 2005 11:33
I have not seen the movie as yet, but the review provides a damning insight into the execrable and sordid world of TNCs, pharmaceuticals and the complicity of the
Two brilliant articles written by John Le Carre and Larry Elliott (especially very incisive as always) respectively for the Guardian newspaper in 2001 are a must-read:
1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,,436621,00.html (Evil triumphs in a Sick Society)
QUOTE: “The WTO is not a law unto itself. Governments should write the rules, not multinational corporations. And if they fail to back
2. http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,4134705-103635,00.html (A Lot of Very Greedy People)
QUOTE: “Big Pharma in the
-enjoy! And prepare to be sobered…
The Constant Gardener, directed by Fernando Meirelles, screenplay by Jeffrey Caine, based on the novel by John le Carré
“Quayles always make reliable servicemen.” Thus Sir Bernard Pellegrin of the British Foreign Office describes the lineage of Justin Quayle, the “constant gardener” of the title. In fact, events will oblige Justin to break the long-term pattern of constancy and reliability—qualities demanded of a diplomat/bureaucrat serving the interests of British imperialism.
John le Carré’s novel of political intrigue, The Constant Gardener, has been adapted for the screen by Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (City of
An “axis of evil” is in operation: Dypraxa, a drug for tuberculosis manufactured by KDH and distributed in
Predicted to be the future global pandemic, tuberculosis represents megabucks with Dypraxa positioned to shoot into the realm of blockbuster drugs. In the interests of this potential jackpot, no obstacles, such as Tessa (“that rarest thing: a lawyer who believes in justice”) can be tolerated.
The drug’s inventor, Dr. Marcus Lorbeer (Pete Postlethwaite)—in self-imposed exile in a remote Sudanese desert—was one of the last persons to meet with Tessa before her death. He is in possession of a document that points a finger at the complicity of the British state in her death. When Justin succeeds by way of a pharma-watchdog group in
Lorbeer sums up one of the film’s central themes: “Pharmaceuticals are right up there with arms dealers.”
Meirelles has legitimately interpreted le Carré’s intricately plotted thriller.
Cast and crew contributed to The Constant Gardener Trust financing a bridge, schooling costs, road building and community groups in east
The actors bring this empathy to their performances. Fiennes and Weisz are affecting. Weisz’s brief interactions with Kenyan children (some of which were apparently not scripted) make an impression. British Foreign Office representatives are sufficiently cold-blooded and calculating, without losing all traces of humanity. The actors don’t hold back in their depiction of colonialist condescension, tipped towards revulsion, when dealing with the African poor.
When veteran British spy Donohue (Donald Sumpter) tells Justin that there is a contract out on him in Africa and coolly says, “Getting people out of countries is one of the few things we still do well,” one feels a blast from the old Empire. Maneuvers between Her Majesty’s cunning servants, the corrupt Kenyan officials and the cutthroat minions of big Pharma are convincingly enacted.
In the character of Sir Kenneth Curtiss, actor Gerard McSorley (last seen in Omagh, in a strikingly different role) embodies the nasty, sordid head of the drug distributor, 3 B’s. Pete Postlethwaite as Lorbeer, who opportunistically headed up the Dypraxa tests and then runs off to hide out in the depths of
The relationship between the former colonial master and the corrupt representatives of the Kenyan state is brought out nicely in a scene where Justin is arrested by local police. “For a diplomat, you are not a very good liar,” says one of the latter; Justin responds, “I haven’t risen very high.”
In general, the performances of an outstanding group of British actors tend to rise above the limitations of the script, including an unnecessary number of clichés, and its direction.
In The Constant Gardener, the first meeting between Justin and Rachel stands out. Justin, having delivered a drab, abstract lecture on the “art” of British diplomacy, is verbally attacked by audience member Rachel: Why, she asks angrily, is
Without disclosing too much, mention should be made of the film’s final sequence, a deviation from the novel. Although the scene perhaps tips the scale toward an overly satisfying emotional catharsis, there is something to be said for the blunt exposure of the Foreign Office’s Pellegrin (Bill Nighy), a high-level official preparing for a new career with pharmaceutical giant KDH.
Having floated the lie that Justin committed suicide, Pellegrin goes on to describe the murdered diplomat as the quintessential representative of his profession—someone who is courteous, self-effacing and would not have inconvenienced Her Majesty’s Government; in fact, says Pellegrin, nothing gave credit to his life so much as the way he ended it. The truth about Justin’s fate at the hand of the British state, together with a condemnation of the deaths “from lives that are bought so cheaply” to benefit the “civilized world,” dramatically closes the film.
The decision to film this novel is not insignificant. After four decades of writing fiction, le Carré is an insightful and talented novelist with intimate knowledge of the workings of the British state and the ruling elite as a whole. The publication of The Constant Gardener in 2001 was preceded by an article in the Daily Telegraph, entitled, “The Criminals of Capitalism,” in which le Carré condemned “the conviction that, whatever profit-driven corporations do in the short term, they are ultimately motivated by ethical concerns, and their influence on the world is therefore beneficial, and so God help us all.” Le Carré continued, “It seemed to me, as I began to cast around for a story to illustrate the example, that the pharmaceutical industry offered the most eloquent example.”
Le Carré’s book is based on documented cases, such as trials that the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer carried out in
The filmmakers have made a conscious connection with the objective situation. They are not simply stumbling around in the dark like so many of their colleagues. There are certain objective landmarks in the film; definite social and material interests are represented.
Certain social types—corporate director, spy, diplomat, radical activist, political hit man— are delineated. Various issues arise, most essentially the role of transnational corporations, in the form of the pharmaceuticals, backed by the great powers. The ravaging of
The film’s remarkable cast labor with considerable diligence and conscientiousness, obviously affected by the extreme distress of the Kenyan population. It is within the core of the performances that one senses the growing global opposition to the
As in the book, Justin Quayle is not a fully formed character and never really comes to life, but rather functions as something of a congealed plot device. His transition from formless, invisible civil servant (and “gardener”) to an unstoppable—almost reckless—force raging against the machine at times stretches credulity. The depiction of his relationship with Tessa—the vital raison d’être for his personality about-face—contains some of the film’s weakest and least dramatic arrangements.
Why did Meirelles opt for such jittery camera-work and a fragmented approach? The director might consider it artistically fashionable, given that City of God, his previous film about
In the most obvious sense, it obstructs the viewer from experiencing, except fleetingly, the characters’ inner world, as well as the film’s more suggestive images.
One feels dissatisfied as well by the level of interaction with the Kenyans, who function more or less as background material. This reveals something about the director’s political outlook—his sympathy for but essential distance from what he terms the “underdogs” of society. The same problems were present in his depiction of the slum dwellers in City of
While the director is not obliged to come up with a solution to the problems he chooses to focus on, one feels that Meirelles is made somewhat nervous by the seriousness of the concerns raised in the film—what is to de done with giant conglomerates that dominate the globe and wreak havoc on the world’s population? How to proceed against their plundering? Unfortunately, the fragmentation and relentless chop-editing function primarily to deflect attention from these weighty matters.
The film raises issues for which there is no simple solution, but distracting the audience with cinematic pyrotechnics doesn’t help. It would be better, for example, to explain that this reality is difficult, that there are no quick fixes, or that a handful of outraged activists with slogans is not enough to make things right.
The Constant Gardener disturbs, lingers in the mind, for its images of