Directed by: Shaun Wilson
Written by: Shaun Wilson
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WWIII has just ended and 8 days later, survivors are being rounded up and executed. The world has turned to shit and those who remain, are no better off than when the war was raging. Hunger, murder, and rape run rampant but that's not all. Some of the survivors are hearing someone speaking from inanimate objects. Someone urging them out into the desolation of what's left of the world; someone wanting them to come find him.
Kate (Cara Culligan) is one of the survivors. Young, cold and hungry she agrees to leave her sanctuary and begin a quest to find the voice in her radio. A voice that has no business being heard because this radio has no cord, no batteries. Even more shocking is that Kate not only hears the voice, but speaks with it. Actual conversations. This could have been a great tactic to impose a mental breakdown element to this title, but since other people hear the voice as well I knew this wasn't the case.
Through what's left of Australia Kate walks and along the way, we see some survivors and some remnants of the war but mostly, these encounters are quick. Save an older man somewhere in the second act, it's basically Kate and the voice. Cold, hungry, and alone, she follows the directions of the voice even when she knows she shouldn't. Hopeful that someone/something decent is on the other side but knowing that's probably not the case. Black Garden is the art-house feature length title about the end, but the much more personal side of things. The supernatural element adds the motivation for her character to delve out into the world, and acts as a way to create dialog within the film. Other than that, we know who or what he is and about halfway through the film, it's a wonder Kate doesn't as well. Suspecting is one thing, but once a certain point is reached I kept asking myself why she continued onward.
This title is presented in black and white and as an artsy type movie. Why oh why I kept asking myself; followed by a realization that still holds true long after the credits for this title rolled. Often I hear that a filmmaker wants to do something different, thus giving birth to artsy, experimental black and white titles. But when 4 out of 10 micro budget films I watch are black and white, and sold off as art-house cinema, are they really art-house cinema? When everyone does a thing it becomes the norm, not the exception. I've long believed that using this excuse is a way for a micro budget title to easily avoid color correction work and whatnot. Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much. This title I feel would have been better in color. A contrast to the barren surroundings of the film. Instead, it's dreary on dreary with nothing popping out, and given it's run time, a splash of color would really have helped.
But Shaun Wilson's film is not a bust. There are some great scenes and a moody score that glues the story together, along with a good performance from Cara Culligan. I don't foresee Black Garden winning an Oscar but that doesn't mean it didn't work as a film. The somber atmosphere and splash of the supernatural gelled to create a film that indeed manages to mostly hold your attention. The masks throughout were a great touch and there were some nicely done tense scenes. My personal opinion is this. Black Garden has enough to hold you until the end, it probably just isn't enough to keep you chatting about it at the water cooler a week later. As far as being a micro budget title, it's one of the better ones I've seen.