Saturday, 6 June 2015

A Little Chaos

Because there aren't enough films about gardening...

Last week Sarah and I went to the Gloucester Guildhall to see Alan Rickman's second film as director, A Little Chaos. This is the highly-fictionalised account of the creation of the formal gardens for Louis XIV's palace of Versailles. Belgian actor Matthias Schoenarts plays the Sun King's chief landscape artist, Andre Le Notre, who hires the headstrong but troubled Sabine De Barra ( Kate Winslett ) to build an outdoor ballroom for the palace. Sabine challenges Le Notre's sense of order with her radical ideas, finds herself the victim of snobbery and Court intrigue, gains a surprising royal ally and  -  inevitably  -  falls in love with her "master"...
This is a very slight story and the film obviously suffers from a low budget but, after a slow start, A Little Chaos finds its feet and portrays a sweet, slow-burning love story among the pomp of the royal Court. Schoenarts is quietly convincing as the artist struggling to finish his project and satisfy his king's demands, while dealing with his unfaithful and manipulative wife ( the ever-wonderful Helen McCrory ) and slowly falling for Sabine. Director Rickman gives himself the plum role of Louis XIV but resists the temptation to ham it up or overshadow the main story, instead giving us a glimpse of the man beneath the wigs and the robes. There's also fine support from other dependable Brit character actors like Rupert Penry-Jones, Danny Webb and Phyllida Law, with Stanley Tucci adding some transatlantic camp, but the film really belongs to Kate Winslett...
Winslett's role of the fiesty woman forging her own ( garden ) path in a man's world, while haunted by the death of her husband and daughter, could have been hackneyed and obvious but she pours so much pain and sadness and anger into the role that she forces you to believe it. There's a beautiful scene where the usually-reticent Sabine opens up about her past trauma to the collected women of the Court who all, one by one, recount their own tales of love and loss, before metaphorically putting their masks back on to face the King and his cronies. Winslett only shares a few scenes with Rickman but the best of the lot sees her mistaking Louis ( sans wig ) for the royal gardener and sharing a few horticultural tips before discovering his identity. The love story between Sabine and Andre also defies the Mills & Boon-type material and becomes something more real and deep, but tinged with sadness.
Not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, A Little Chaos is still a fragrant little bloom...

3 comments:

Kid said...

I must confess, Kate is a comely wench indeed, sir. However, I'll probably wait until it turns up on TV.

cerebus660 said...

I'm sure I'll be seeing it again before then, Kid. I think Sarah will be first in the queue when the DVD comes out...

cerebus660 said...
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