The Garden Of Earthly Delights

Polish writer/artist/filmmaker Lech Majewski's contemplative film, which falls somewhere between conventional independent drama and experimental cinema, revolves around a dying scholar who spends her last months recreating Hieronymus Bosch's trippy 16th-century visions of sensual indulgence. English art historian Claudine (Claudia Spiteri) is working on...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Polish writer/artist/filmmaker Lech Majewski's contemplative film, which falls somewhere between conventional independent drama and experimental cinema, revolves around a dying scholar who spends her last months recreating Hieronymus Bosch's trippy 16th-century visions of sensual indulgence. English art historian Claudine (Claudia Spiteri) is working on a PhD dissertation devoted to unpacking the dense landscape of bizarre figures who populate Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights, when she learns she's dying of throat cancer. She and her new boyfriend, engineer and amateur filmmaker Chris (Chris Nightingale) — who's working on his dissertation, a study of hull construction as it applies to container ships — decide to take an extended trip to Venice, where they rent an airy apartment with a waterside view. Chris studies the structural dynamics of gondola hulls and also films Claudine, a white bandage wrapped around her throat, as she orchestrates fanciful erotic games inspired by details from Bosch's painting. She draws musical notes on Chris' buttocks, snuggles with him inside a large, soft-sided suitcase (a modern-day substitute for Bosch's giant mussel shell, within which two lovers cavort), plays with a handsome toad, watches Chris try — unsuccessfully — to balance a series of eggs on his head, and cocoons herself with him in a tent made of sheets of translucent plastic (again, a real-world stand-in for the painter's giant bubbles), where they eat ripe berries. Chris is the putative author of the film's images, but they're overlaid with Claudine's relentlessly overwhelming voice-over, which alternates between a crisp, knowing lecture about Bosch and more personal musings. And despite the frequent and elaborate sex scenes, the film's overall tone is both melancholic and alienating, suffused with the sad certainty of Claudine's impending death in Venice.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Polish writer/artist/filmmaker Lech Majewski's contemplative film, which falls somewhere between conventional independent drama and experimental cinema, revolves around a dying scholar who spends her last months recreating Hieronymus Bosch's trippy 16th-ce… (more)

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