I have been anticipating watching this movie for a month. I came upon it shortly after Alan Rickman’s death in January. I was immediately drawn to the story and I’ve searched for an online version to watch. Today I called my local DVD rental store to check availability. The film was in stock and the clerk held it up front for me. Mid afternoon I surrendered to viewing the movie before my last appointment of the day. I just couldn’t wait!
A Little Chaos, which released in 2014, stars Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci and Helen McCrory. It was directed by Alan Rickman, his second time behind the camera. This historical drama/romance is rated R for brief nudity and sexuality and has a run time of 1 hour and 57 minutes.
Set in France in the year 1682, this richly depicted period piece follows the story of two talented gardeners charged with creating the lush gardens of King Louis XIV (Rickman) in Versailles. The fact that one of the landscape artists is a woman, Sabine De Barra (Winslet), creates both tension and interest, from the king and his court to the hired contractors working with her.
Master gardener and court landscaper Andre Le Notre (Schoenaerts) is willing to take the risk of working with Sabine. He is intrigued by her disdain toward order and formality in the gardens, discovering that she prefers wildness or chaos. Andre is in a marriage of arrangement, to a shrewish woman (McCrory) who lacks imagination. His interest in Sabine soon takes a more personal turn.
Others take notice of the hard working and outspoken young woman. King Louis may initially doubt her abilities to create a garden worthy of a king, but he comes to value her wisdom and her practical and honest views of life. The king’s brother, Philippe (Tucci), is charmed by Sabine’s natural beauty, while the Royal Court is curious about who she is.
Sabine, the heart of this story, wants the chance to fully use her gifts to create something extraordinary. Along the way, perhaps she will also find respect, love and healing from her past.
I loved this beautiful film. I knew I was going to when the introduction of Winslet’s character showed her coloring. She used pencils and pastels to create detailed drawings of the plants and creatures in her garden. And the gardening was so appealing to me. Sabine’s wild garden outside her workroom door was gorgeous, especially when lit by candlelight. I made a mental note to add more candle holders to my own backyard paradise.
Andre’s speech to Sabine, about gardening being our search for Eden, was spot on. Only a few have the gift of recreating Eden he said. However we are drawn to tame the wildness and enter the Garden again.
Alan Rickman was superb as King Louis XIV and as the director. The flow of the film, the visually appealing scenes, are a tribute to him. One of my favorite scenes involved Sabine mistaking the king, who was sitting wigless and in his shirt sleeves in a walled garden, for a tree and shrub gardener. They were able to share a simple meal and have a sincere and heart level conversation that continued even after Sabine realized who she was talking to so freely.
Another favorite scene, and unexpectedly so, allowed a peek into the lives of the women of the court. Beneath their finery and their seemingly indulgent lifestyles lay heartbreak and loss and a quiet strength that endured.
A Little Chaos was all I hoped it would be, and more. I enjoyed the story, and I loved the part that Alan had in creating such an enchanting movie. I will be purchasing the DVD to add to my collection.
And I was inspired. The weather will be unseasonably warm the remainder of the week. I will be tending to my gardens, getting my hands dirty, preparing for the awakening that will come next month as spring coaxes flowers and plants from their long slumber. I will be creating a little chaos, a bit of Eden, in my own backyard.