I’m sure you’re all well aware of Japan’s “Suicide Forest”. It received a great amount of exposure earlier this year with the mainstream theatrical release of The Forest (review). What you might not be aware of is another movie that takes on the same location, but in a very different way. Nadia Litz’s The People Garden is a radical departure from what you might expect, but is it worth your time?
First things first: it’s absolutely gorgeous. Such a tragic location has never looked so beautiful, yet simultaneously haunting. If you’re one that finds yourself appreciating the finer aspects of cinematography and meticulously crafted color grading, this is for you. But with such style, and dare I say class, comes rather high expectations from the jump. And while the idea of a young woman traveling across the world to break up with her boyfriend (just so she can see the look on his face) seems simple, and totally mean, enough–those expectations begin to fizzle throughout the duration of the film.
Don’t get me wrong, attractive production values and camera work will get you far, but The People Garden feels rather empty–both literally and figuratively. The performances turned in by our actors are fine, but the characters themselves are paper thin with almost no backstory. Even more flimsy is the “mystery” of where our main character’s boyfriend is. I doubt there’s a soul alive that will be shocked or surprised at the events that take place. When such an enormous part of your narrative is the mystery… it better be mysterious, and The People Garden isn’t. In fact, it’s downright obvious.
In the end, the lack of any real attachment to the people or events in the film is its downfall. Litz’s camera work almost makes you feel like you’re watching something with a profound meaning or message, but you aren’t. The People Garden may be pretty, but it’s woefully predictable. That’s a shame when you have such a strong opening. Oh well. Better luck next time, I suppose.
The People Garden [Review]