Taming the Garden (2021) - 8/10
I collect records. My wife collects perfume. People collect all kinds of things don’t they. The former Prime Minister of The Republic of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, collects trees. Not planting them. Although that is the end result. No, digging them up from the coast where they’ve grown in some cases very tall and transporting them to his private garden. He’s not doing this himself of course. There’s a team, with chainsaws, JCBs and barges. They don’t talk. At least not to the camera. Amongst themselves, about repairing equipment, their health, random stories, the beauty of the trees… and musings on why their employer wants them. We don’t meet the former PM and there’s not really any explanation. Parts of this are a bit like the SlowTV films. It’s relaxing viewing. Long locked off shots of men working, machinery moving, it’s patient, skilled, labour intensive work. There’s real care taken to capture this. Not just in the filming, which is exquisite, but in the sound design too. Much of it is in camera, but it’s still as carefully composed as the frame. Bold. Ambitious. Ridiculous and oddly fascinating. It’s a marvel to see the lengths undertaken to achieve the goal. As the trees are removed, roads are built. This for the most part is welcomed by the locals, who muse in their homes as to why he’s doing it, but thankful he is. Not everyone is happy though and it’s perhaps easy to see this a metaphor for those with money and those without. Bidzina Ivanishvili is worth a reported $4.8 billion and some see this a merely a rich bloke playing god. Apparently he also collects exotic animals, although that’s not covered here. Well aside some swans and flamingos seen in the garden. What starts out as something purely interesting from a visual perspective, gains ground as more local voices are introduced, be them thankful or resentful. There’s much more to dig into here than whats on the surface, mere folly. What beautifully folly though.