The Garden (Of Guilt and Grief) is a hypnotic and ethereal short film from VDB Productions in the UK. It tells the story of a lonely and frail old man named Simeon (Stuart Adams) who confronts the horrendous crime of his youth. Back then, he was in love with the tempestuous artist Celestina (Eloise Black), who rejects him when she becomes pregnant by another man. Unable to live without her, Simeon kills Celestina. Now aged and bitter, Simeon is unable to live with the evil he committed decades ago. He decides to end his life and join Celestina and her daughter in Jannah, which is the Islamic equivalent of an afterlife.
Part of the appeal of “Of Guilt and Grief” is watching the way the drama unfolds. Director and screenwriter Tom van den Broek’s uses a non linear style for his narrative. He freely shifts scenes from the past, present and future as Simeon recalls his passion for Celestina, his rage over her rejection and his feelings of remorse that have festered over the decades. But the non-linear style also allows van den Broek to establish a dream-like and haunting atmosphere. The mood is both captivating and riveting and is a remarkable achievement for a short film.
The film’s production values are sumptuous as well. It is a rare that a short can boast art direction, costumes and sets that can compete with Hollywood standards, but designer Maria Dagher has done an amazing job here. There is also wonderful makeup from Sam Duce and Ria Biggerstaff.
Stuart Adams gives a powerful performance as Simeon. He channels the man’s rage and guilt with the precision and intensity of a laser beam. His haunted looks will stay with you for a long time. Eloise Black is also wonderful as Celestina. She’s smoldering and turbulent and captures the artist’s emotional palette perfectly.
The Garden (Of Guilt and Grief) is a superb short film. It is stunning and it weaves a captivating emotional web that lingers long after it ends. If you enjoy great cinema (regardless of the length), make it a point to search for it.
The film will be screened at the Queens World Film Festival in March 2013.