Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Garden Both Secret and Magical

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Garden Both Secret and Magical

Article excerpt

SECRETS ARE difficult to keep, but that of "The Secret Garden" probably holds the record for the worst-kept. The novel, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, was published in 1911 and has been in print ever since. It has been the source for several plays, including a major-hit musical of a few years ago. This is at least its third movie version.

The new film, using the modern magic of cinematic technique and equipment to show off the magical garden at its best, is a leisurely repeat of the tale of the little girl who learns to cry, the little boy who learns to trust life and the adult who learns to laugh, all helped along by the garden and those who discover love by being part of it.

Still, it will make children happy and hold their attention, and those who know the book will find only minor disturbance in a couple of plot changes - changing the cause of death of Mary's parents from cholera to an earthquake, and the introduction of some mystical, around-the-fire chanting that brings overtones of extra sensory perception.

The exciting visual style was created by production designer Stuart Craig, who won Academy Awards for such different-looking films as "Gandhi" and "Dangerous Liaisons." With some special photographic effects used sparingly - and properly - to show the flowers blooming, real magic comes to the garden, and the gamboling of lambs, kids and other animals adds to the bucolic charm.

Agnieszka Holland, who directed "Europa, Europa" and "Olivier, Olivier," does her third straight film in which young people are key characters. But it is the first she did not write: That went to Caroline Thompson, who also wrote "The Addams Family" and "Edward Scissorhands."

Holland, working with a largely English cast, brings a different - European, perhaps? - sensibility to the film, and I think it works. She moves slowly and patiently, giving the young actors room to show their individuality and to grow in the roles. …

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