Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *
Cast: Kate Winslet, Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Ehle, Alan Rickman, Helen McCrory, Matthias Schoenaerts, Steven Waddington, Danny Webb, Adrian Schiller, Adrian Scarborough, Pauline Moran, Phyllida Law, Morgan Watkins, Henry Garrett, Alistair Petrie, Adam James.
There are films in which the abundance of talent on offer simply overwhelms the story line, the procession of acting nobility so engulfing, so crushing, that the film dies a thousand scripted deaths; it never truly lives up to the dignity envisioned off screen and the grace offered in the initial stages of casting. Thankfully this is not the issue when it comes to A Little Chaos.
A Little Chaos is Alan Rickman’s second outing beyond the borders of the framed camera shot and arguably this particular film is a vast improvement on his first behind the camera. Perhaps it is in part down to the very talent that could sink another film and yet pulls it together with refined taste and sensibility that it will certainly appeal to those who enjoy the dedication shown to the British costume drama and to those with a fair mind and not an ounce of slavish jealousy in their hearts.
The Palace of Versailles has always been noted for their exquisite gardens, but not the stories behind them or of the Master Gardener who constructed and oversaw their presence, André Le Notre. In A Little Chaos, part of this extraordinary man’s life become clear, a man so dedicated to his relationship to nature that he is willing to live without his heart as he is abused from above, with regal kindness, and from his own wife who sees his standing at court, a mere reflection of the supposed allure she holds.
Into his life comes Sabine De Barre, decent, gracious, but damaged. A flower that has grown strong in her pursuit at being a gardener but whose own soul hides a dreadful secret. Whilst the film is essentially a love story, it should be noted that the attention to detail in the wider context snuffs out the stilted love scenes that are meant to convey so much passion. This is nobody’s fault, certainly not the two actors who have both conveyed the meaning of the act of love to extraordinary heights, especially Ms. Winslet who will be forever enhanced in the mind of the film goer with her performance as Rose in Titanic, it is more to do with the audience’s mind being grasped by the enormity of the projects that were undertaken by André Le Notre in service to King Louis XIV.
The film works, even with acting royalty in it, because those at the forefront of the film are actually the support players, the true beauty lays not in Alan Rickman’s sensitive portrayal of the King, nor in Steven Waddington’s kindly nature as Sabine De Barre’s foreman and scene stealing Stanley Tucci’s magnificent portrayal as the King’s effeminate brother Philippe, Duc d’Orleans, the gravitas of the film is enhanced not by the action, slow, methodical but ultimately one landed with precision, it is in the scenery, the backdrop is the true star. It is that scenery, that oneness with a natural and untameable order that really carries the film through its logical pursuit of tenderness.
In all walks of life A Little Chaos is required, it keeps the mind sharp and the senses keen, to have a film invert this, by having the action and the actors almost seem their own scenery takes some imagination and love for the piece required, Alan Rickman delivers this with a nurturing smile.
Ian D. Hall