Quick-Thoughts: Luis Buñuel’s Death in the Garden (1956)

Luis Buñuel Marathon Round 2 (I of V)

The coloring is f*****g mesmerizing in Death in the Garden. Just from the flicker on a candle tip (not literally though; haha) and Buñuel knows how to glow up a set for maximum effect. This is an exuberant-looking motion picture, taking place at a nostalgic mining missionary, a mystifying jungle with a personality, and an epic plane crash site. 

Some of the shots here are literally not focused correctly though. LOL. 

Death in the Garden has a painfully lightweight plot, on the downside. As for its commentary, it’s certainly what you’d come to expect from Buñuel—its say on the extremes we use to interpret God is most interesting and its parallel to low-class oppression is quite valid, to say the least. Obviously, each main character also represents a certain branch of people, functioning as intrinsic themes that replace good characters, unfortunately. 

Death in the Garden is like Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal minus the contemplative or sensible character journeys. The film even explores the construct of death (as if its title would suggest otherwise) and, yet, Buñuel doesn’t really cultivate deep into this idea. He rather defines it as something that would exist conceptually in our thoughts as if we ourselves were in this dangerous situation that the given characters are enduring. 

Death in the Garden is another Night of the Hunter situation where it’s undoubtedly one of the very first to implement a specific thematic and premise-found concept into the world of cinema, but due to just how largely the motifs and gimmicks of it have been replicated and, more importantly, improved, the movie doesn’t impress as much as it may have back in 1956.

Verdict: C+

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“Death in the Garden” is now available to stream on Kanopy and The Criterion Channel.

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