Images can be tyrannical things. In The Garden of Earthly Delights, faded videos trace the once vibrant presence of a lover. Chris (Chris Nightingale) obsessively replays the tapes containing his life with Claudia (Claudine Spiteri), finding himself imprisoned by the memories of former flesh. Adapting his own novel Metaphysics, director Lech Majewski edits these tapes together as bursts of remembrance, a collision of joyously tactile caresses from when the couple was vacationing in Venice. The film is given shape by their re-enactment of scenes from the titular Bosch painting after Claudia’s cancer comes out of remission. There is magic in these intimate passion plays, which are filled with sloppy, loving detail and are mounted without a hint of pretension. Each banal moment becomes achingly gorgeous, not least because of Spiteri’s disarmingly straightforward performance. The movie’s philosophy is lucid and humane: Life is precious because it is short. True, but it gives no answer to the man who remains. All he has are shadows.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 13, 2006