The sound of rain on pavement, breeze lifting muslin drapes and disarranging curls of hair, birds calling in the morning sun, cicadas en masse in the heat of the day, avenues of European trees, mirages in the desert; all evocative in landscape and cinema. 20th C film director, Andrey Tarkovsky, called film a “mosaic of time”, revealing the deep connection between landscape, or in my case gardens, and film. He calls rhythm the formative element in cinema¹, the rhythm of seasons, breathing, wildlife cycles, coming and going, creating and destroying, night and day, psychological variations, learning and forgetting, living and dying; rhythm is the formative element in life.
Gardens are well placed to reveal the language of rhythm. The stories which become possible via the client’s brief through design, metaphor, imagination, and the application of art in thought may fall together to illuminate more (or perhaps less depending on its success) than was intended. Luis Bunuel understood filmmaking as a process of discovery, of revelation, it is not always as one intends²; “The story you tell isn’t the same as the story you hear.” In the development of a new language for gardens one can disengage from what has been done, and reimagine elemental threads which include psychology, fiction, metaphor, story, touch, arcadia and the wild as ennobling gifts to the user. Plants initially become servants of ideas creating unintentional perspectives until time folds them into the fabric of the story.
Of course the early experiences of such a garden may elicit vertigo, obfuscation or irritability. This could be a marker to its success – we love our comfort zones, and gardens have traditionally been places of comfort and rest – but as life experience tells us, the best outcomes very often take the most effort. These are gardens for explorers, thinkers, ‘wild’ people, those who don’t expect things to be “handed to them on a platter”, they require interpretation and understanding with the passage of time.
This is not about an arbitrary process or determinism. The process is best suited to, as Ingmar Bergman says, “accepting something ill-defined and leading it toward definition, preserving along the way the equivocal moments, the secret passages: for if given free reign, the distinct often tends to become too clear cut, too dry and cold and uncompromising.” We owe it to ourselves and those we serve and care about to think. Film can be toxic for sure but also it very often serves to ennoble us and nudge us in the direction our hearts are heading. Secret passages and cerebral intoxication may well be waiting for us if we give gardens more latitude for the cinematic!
¹Ed. Salim Kemel & Ivan Gaskell, ‘Landscape, Natural Beauty and the Arts’, CUP ²Jean-Claude Carriere, ‘The Secret Language of Film’, Pantheon Books