Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman are paired together again after a long time in this film, since the days of Sense and Sensibility, by Ang Lee. This is a period drama alright, like that Jane Austen adaptation but it’s fine details have an entirely different narrative flow, than the novel.
A young lady goes thorough plenty of private and professional hurdles, when she is recruited to use her talents in landscape design to work on King Louis XIV’s gardens at Versailles. Alan Rickman directs this film after 17 years – his previous film was The Winter Guest (1997).
The Winter Guest was quite the mourning chapter about one woman’s life and how slowly she responds to it, amidst dealing with an easily-irked mother. It had grande Scottish seaside townscapes painted across all of the frames but this particular film is more of a regal nature, ambitiously made pocket-sized.
Madame Sabine de Barra (Kate Winslet) is a widow and she does not get symmetrical designs, finding them pressurised. She would much rather tame the wild in nature and finds a strange opponent in a seasoned landscaper, who has also been commissioned to prune the gardens at Versailles, with his love for everything classically symmetrical.
Her superrvisor has been told to create a garden that is not only elaborate but also companion-less, as the ceremony to move the King’s garden from Paris to Versailles, is almost underway. This is the year 1682 and Sabine is to act as a sort of a sous-chef for the project, but she considers her supervisor to be her opponent. He eventually gets shaken by Sabine’s strong point of views, and asks her to design the Rockwork Garden, this ballroom space outdoors, that is replete with a fountain.
But this episode turns ugly: Sabine gladly accepts the project thinking her strong words have managed to get her far professionally, only to be found out that she has gotten herself mercilessly trapped. As she begins work on the garden, the sneers of the her male co-workers, her supervisors, her beyond audible to her. They sneer at her idiosyncratic approach to rules and her mannerism of pruning the garden, and is also joined in this sneering-match by many courtsmen.
Soon, her supervisor’s wife begins to suspect a lukewarm affair brewing between her husband and Sabine. This lady is quite something, many believe, she has all the say in the relationship, which is open-in-nature-not-exclusive and the marriage is one, where she gets to walk out of bed everyday, with one personally amusing sexual escapade after another, she has so shrewdly planned out. Sabine is constantly plagued by the death of her husband throughout these hardships, and there is a negligible spark between her and her supervisor, that extinguishes the moment she dilutes that spark, with the sneers his character has shamelessly put on.
Sabine eventually meets the King (Alan Rickman) and is invited to a lengthy episode of tea with him, where she also gets the chance to win the approval of other influential public figures, who comment that Sabine, thankfully, is so amusingly uncalculatingly and honest. This film is sure to win your favours if you enjoy diving into a short-arc about the lives of the royal subjects of King Louis XIV.
Film Rating: 8/10.