VOD film review: Taming the Garden
James R | On 28, Jan 2022
Director: Salomé Jashi
Climate change is a horrifying, manmade catastrophe, a folly of tragic consequence after years of treating the planet like a plaything or a piece of property. Nowhere, perhaps, is the sheer hubris of humanity captured so serenely and poetically as Taming the Garden, a jaw-dropping documentary that follows one man’s quest to exert his own control and ownership over nature.
Over hours, days and weeks, the former primer minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, extends his power and influence across the globe, through valleys and villages, over water and hills, and uses it to snare old, treasured trees and bring them back to a private garden on the Georgian coast. Director Salomé Jashi observes the bizarre, fascinating and poignant feat, as landscapes and soil are torn apart and the delicate balance of the ecosystem is thrown into disorder.
The humans around this are also caught on camera, from those taking the bargain of payment to carry out the manual operation to the communities who accept new roads and infrastructure but achingly lament the loss required in exchange. It’s a literal document of lives being uprooted, a portrait of transplantation that whistles with the winds of forced change and strange new habitats.
Editor Chris Wright perfectly settles into Jashi’s glacial groove, and the long, patient shots of seemingly impossible juxtapositions are quietly jaw-dropping. With no narration or talking heads to illuminate these unusual happenings, there’s a slight detachment to proceedings, even as we get snippets of locals chatting about what’s going on. But that disconnect also feels coolly apt, as we witness the jarring scrapes of a digger’s claws along the floor, the determined assembly of a fence that barely contains a towering forest giants roots or a tree perched on an isolated boat floating away into the ocean. It’s an eerie, stunning shot that will stay with you for days.