September 8, 2009
Warner Home Video
- Runtime: 103 minutes
- NTSC (Canada and USA)
- Originally in English
Ten-year old Mary Lennox is a homely, spoiled rich girl living in colonial India with her very aloof parents. They frequently attend elegant parties while leaving her with servants who tend to her every whim. But when her parents are killed, Mary's life changes drastically. She's shipped off to England to live in the enormous manor home of Lord Archibald Craven, an old friend of her father's, and his invalid son Colin. Lord Craven has become a miserable recluse since his wife's death, ignoring his son and leaving the household management to Mrs. Medlock, an iron-handed, old-school authoritarian. In this cold environment the children -- with a little help from spirited maid Martha Sowerby and her younger brother Dickon -- manage to find happiness in a special garden hidden away for years.
Agnieszka Holland’s adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic fairy tale, THE SECRET GARDEN is a highly entertaining family picture that is overflowing with gorgeous imagery. Ten-year-old Mary Lennox (Kate Maberly) is a spoiled rich girl living in colonial India with her aloof parents who frequent elegant parties and leave her with servants who attend to her every whim. When her parents are killed, however, Mary's life changes drastically. She's shipped off to England to live in the enormous manor of her father's friend, Lord Archibald Craven (John Lynch), and his invalid son, Colin (Heydon Prowse). Lord Craven, a miserable recluse since his wife's death, ignores his son and leaves the household management to Mrs. Medlock (Maggie Smith), an ironhanded authoritarian. In this cold environment, the children, with help from spirited maid Martha Sowerby and her younger brother, Dickon, manage to find happiness in a special garden hidden away for years. Beautifully shot by Roger Deakins, Holland’s film is a visual feast that captures the fantasy like tone of the book without sacrificing any of Burnett’s original vision. Zbigniew Preisner’s magical score adds another lovely dimension, making this a film that individuals of every age can enjoy.
"The Secret Garden" is not Polish director Agnieszka Holland's first film in English, but it is her first "mainstream" English picture. A film which opened to very strong reviews, Holland's "Garden" is a very fine rendition of the often revived classic. In 1949 Margaret O'Brien starred in MGM's adaptation. BBC and the Hallmark Hall of Fame have also produced films based on the 1911 Frances Hodgson Burnett novel. And, of course, there was the very popular Broadway musical version with music by Elizabeth Swados.
Screenwriter Caroline Thompson made a a few changes in the film's screenplay. For example, the opening sequence departs from other versions of the story. Instead of opening with plague, the story opens with an earthquake. Thompson told interviewer Mark Burman: "the earthquake is a strong metaphor for shaking up one's life, as we who live in Los Angeles know." And Thompson told Burman it attempts a different feeling. "It's meant to inspire."
In an interview with critic Amy Taubin, Holland said that though the book was a childhood favorite, this recent adaptation was not her initiative. Caroline Thompson finished the script and then sent it to her for consideration. Holland wasn't as close to the project because it "wasn't as personal as one of my scripts," she told Taubin.
Color by Technicolor.
Rated BBFC U by the British Board of Film Classification.
Copyright 1993 Warner Bros.