Subject Material

The Constant Gardener

Published: 19.05.2011, Updated: 04.03.2017
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The Constant Gardener - book

The Constant Gardener by John le Carré

Pre-reading: Read the following lines from the film. How would you answer Tessa? The people she refers to are in a desperate situation and they are poor.

 

Justin Quayle: We can't involve ourselves in their lives, Tessa.
Tessa Quayle: Why?
Justin Quayle: Be reasonable. There are millions of people, they all need help. It's what the agencies are here for.
Tessa Quayle: Yeah, but these are three people that we can help.

The Constant GardenerThe Constant Gardener Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), a British diplomat, finds his wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz) murdered and seeks to uncover the reasons behind her death. In doing so he discloses high level corruption between goverment officials and multinational companies. On his quest to unveil the truth, Justin realizes that he really didn't know the woman he married and that the people he trusted shouldn't be. 

The film, The Constant Gardener (2005) is an adaption of a novel by the British writer John le Carré. It was directed by the Brazilian Fernando Meirelles. Meirelles told The Independent that the chance to take on the pharmaceutical industry was one of three elements that made him want to direct The Constant Gardener, as was the chance to shoot in Kenya. The film is a conspiracy thriller, criticizing the involvement of a large pharmaceutical company in testing drugs in Africa. However, it is also a passionate love story.

Working with the First Chapter of the Novel

The Constant Gardener - From Chapter One  

Read from the first chapter of the novel. As you read, write down the names of the characters and the jobs/positions they have. Afterwards you could write a summary or take on the slightly more challenging task of answering the questions below.

  1. The story is told from Sandy Woodrow's point of view. What do we get to know about him?
  2. What has happened to Tessa Quayle and Arnold Bluhm?
  3. What were Tessa and Arnold doing by Lake Turkana?
  4. When talking to Sandy, Wolfgang, the owner of Oasis, says: "Listen, I'm Galileo. Put me in prison, I'll swear she never came to the Oasis." What is implied here?
  5. What impression is given of Tessa?
  6. How does Sandy react when he hears that Tessa has been murdered?
  7. How does Justin react when he is informed about Tessa's death?
  8. How is the theme of gardening introduced literally? How can gardening be understood figuratively?
  9. What are we told in flashbacks?
  10. How does the writer create suspense in this chapter?
  11. How is this chapter dealt with in the film? Which adaptations have been made? Make a comparison.

Working with the Trailer

Watch the trailer and answer the questions below.

   

  1. How does the opening scene comply with the rest of the trailer?
  2. What impression do you get of Justin?
  3. What do we get to know about Tessa?
  4. Why do you think Tessa has been murdered?
  5. Compare the way village people are portrayed to the way Britsih diplomats are depicted in these clips. Pay attention to filmatic devices in your comparison.
  6. Justin says that the pharmaceutical industry is "right up there with the arms dealers." What does he mean?
  7. "Some very nasty things live under rocks, especially in foreign gardens." How do you understand this quotation?
  8. Why do you think the film is called The Constant Gardener?

Kothbiro

Kothbiro is the name of the song we hear at the beginning of The Constant Gardener and a recurring theme in the film. Listen to "Kothbiro" by Ayub Ogada and discuss how his music influences our emotions and thus the way we perceive the pictures.  Do you know what it means? Why do you think the director chose this theme?

Working with the Film

Film Education has developed a study guide offering background tasks and research opportunities for The Constant Gardener. See The Constant Gardener - Study Guide .

Making a Difference

The Constant Gardener raises issues regarding how large multinational companies, "Big Pharma", test and sell drugs in the Third World. Is this an issue that concerns and engages you, or do you have a different cause worth fighting for? Discuss with a friend and share your ideas in class. Explore how you can use social networking to promote your views and gain support of your cause. What kind of social media do you think would be most suitable? Explain why. If you have time, try it out.

A funny example of this kind of marketing is Alexis Ohanian: How to Make a Splash in Social Media . Watch Mister Splashy Pants rise to Web stardom.

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