Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Cement Garden

The Cement Garden is based on a 1978 novel by Ian McEwan and is also about adolescent sexual awakening although this time between a brother and sister. The family live in a concrete house on the edge of town as the housing a round them is demolished. When both parents die is relatively quick succession the three children, the elder sister, the brother and the youngest, also a boy are left with a dilemma knowing that if they report the death of the second parent the family will be split and the youngest possibly both boys placed into care. They use concrete from the neighbouring building site incase their mother in a metal cabinet in the basement.

Their mother knowing she is going into hospital had opened an account for her daughter to use so they have income and therefore are able to continue without coming to the attention of the authorities and because of their social isolation in terms of location there are neighbours to notice and take action.

The girl does her best but the adolescent brother alternates between babyhood and sexual arousal masturbating while looking at “girlie” magazines and in between a refusal to contribute in a positive way to keeping the family together in terms of day to household chores, cooking, cleaning, washing etc.

The two older children therefore adopt the traditional roles of mother and father in the situation with the normal tensions that will arise in any household. It can be argued that this is a film about what are the acceptable norms within families, what happens within families behind closed doors particularly if the family is isolated in a physical or social sense and difficulties are not picked up at school at school as the critical aspect of the story takes places during the long summer holiday from school.

The films reach a climax because of several factors. The young woman takes up with a young building contractor or someone employed by a contractor developing the waste land between the house and other properties. Although the impression presented is of a sexual relationship with the man involved providing expensive presents and the taking the young woman off on trips in his red sports car, it emerges that this has not been the situation and which in turn is the downfall of the the couple and their situation; secondly the young man is understandably curious about how the children have come to be on their own and when there is smell in the basement arising from a crack in the badly mixed concerete casing for the mother his concerns grows. He may well have helped in the cover up of the situation if he ahd not chosen to return at the very moment brother and sister reach the point of mutual consolation. He leaves outraged and frustrated at they way he believes he had been treated. The very moment that the couple move from consolation into sexual union, we the audience are aware of the blue flashing light of a police vehicle outside the property called no doubt by the boyfriend. The film ends.

It can be argued that both films are therefore works of art rather than entertainments. Not great art, but good art.

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