Garden of earthly delights

2004

A tale of love, philosophy, eroticism and art, set in London and Venice, with Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights in the background.

Claudia is an art historian specializing in the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. Chris is a maritime engineer writing a PhD on gondola construction. They share a passion for interpreting the hidden language of symbols. When she discovers that she’s got cancer of the larynx, she decides to spend her last days in Venice. There, her obsession with the world of Bosch causes her and Chris to make the Garden‘s visions real. Like Dante’s Beatrice, Claudia becomes Chris’ guide into a labyrinth of love, death, regret and redemption. Their perverse, sensual close-ups provide a counterpoint for their reflections on the theme of the body’s disintegration.

Working from his own novel Metaphysics, writer-director Lech Majewski crafts “magic in The Garden of Earthly Delights’ intimate passion plays, which are filled with loving detail” (Village Voice) and creates “a luminous, highly erotic treatise on art, love and death” (Chicago Reader). Winner of Grand Prix at the Rome Film Festival, 2004.

with Claudine Spitteri, Chris Nightinghale, Gian Campi, Nedis Tramontin

written, directed and shot by Lech Majewski based on his novel METAPHYSICS casting Carrie Hilton, Evar Morovy production design Susana Codognato, Leon Herlig costumes Catherine Buyse Dian music Lech Majewski, Józef Skrzek sound Lech Brański, Jeremy Adamson, Grzegorz Lindeman editor Eliot Ems producers Guido Cerasuolo, Lech Majewski associate producers Louis Ross, Ben Gibson

REVIEWS:

“This film puts to shame most other love stories in its honesty. Within a very philosophical framework, Majewski manages to tell an astonishingly human story. The staggering weirdness of being human – frail, material, dependent, and filled with ideas and aspirations that transcend everything – is the most surreal of all visions, and Majewski captures it… ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ is among the most powerful films made in years.”
Philip Kennicott, The Washington Post

“The love affair, between two adults in their late 30s, is mature, erotic and grounded in recognizable emotion, and the setting couldn’t be better – emphasizing both the timelessness and temporal nature of what they’re going through. British actress Claudine Spiteri is moving and absolutely convincing as a passionate woman determined to leave a mark on the world. I’ve seen a lot of movies this year, but I don’t think I’ll forget this one. It has a strange, longing beauty about it.”
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

“Lech Majewski uses modest means and big ideas to create a masterpiece. “The Garden of Earthly Delights” masterfully encompasses as much of the faceted concreteness of life, as its dimensions of spiritual mystery. It permits extraordinary depths of intimacy to be tapped between the actors; Claudine Spiteri’s performance packs a tremendous human range that should leave no one unmoved… It is one of my favorite films of all time.”
Tim Lucas, Sight&Sound

“There is magic in ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ intimate passion plays, which are filled with loving detail and are mounted without a hint of pretension. Each moment becomes achingly gorgeous, not least because of Claudine Spiteri’s disarmingly straightforward performance. The movie’s philosophy is lucid and humane: Life is precious because it is short.”
R. Emmet Sweeney, The Village Voice

“Stunning visuals and a sizzling performance by Claudine Spiteri: You’re going to love this film and run out to see everything Majewski has directed.”
V.A. Musetto, New York Post

“A virtuoso tale of intense love story full of passion and tenderness.”
Piero Zanotto, Il Gazzettino Venezia

“Rich delight! Each of Majewski’s frames is a treasury of visual delight. This is truly a Venice film for the connoisseur: elegant, erotic, and steeped in the mysterious beauty of the city.”
Barbara Scharres, Chicago Art Institute

“Elegant… Lech Majewski’s musicality is evident in the fresh and lively flow of images.”
Nathan Lee, The New York Times

“A luminous, highly erotic treatise on art, love and death.”
Andrea Gronvall, Chicago Reader

“Abiding intelligence!”
Time Out London

“Majewski’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ definitely won’t be forgotten.”
Raven Snook, Time Out New York

“Evidently, there is a strong pictorial influence in Majewski´s cinematography and his interest for metaphysical matters as well. Like Dreyer, Tarkovski or Sokurov, Majewski is a questioning cinematographer, who pursues to portray the ineffable, and questions the audience about certain essential matters. The characters of these films, leaving aside their differences, seem to express a strong rebellious attitude against the mediocrity upon the world, against the social experiments that deny the spiritual dimension of mankind. In a world where ´God has been replaced by entertainment´, as Claudia says in The Garden…, we have little option but to bet on a different way which allows us to renew the bonds with life.”
Diego Menegazzi, Buenos Aires Museum of Art

“The most moving, stimulating film experience I’ve had this year, probably this decade. Shot entirely by camcorder, Lech Majewski’s masterwork shows what is possible within the limitations of hand-held cinema if the story is approached with sufficient density and imagination. It’s a magical, chronologically skewed love story involving a terminally ill art historian and a naval engineer, who take an apartment in Venice and set about spending their remaining months, weeks or days making a film about Hieronymous Bosch’s eponymous masterpiece. In the process of doing so, they blur the lines between art and reality and life and death, bringing the painting’s details to life while inadvertently documenting their own desperate searches for truth in the face of inevitable tragedy. Rarely has a film taken its audience into such unflinchingly intimate contact with its characters, their hopes and fears, their spirit and dreams, their intimacy.”
Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Books METAPHYSICS / Screenplays