The death of overbearing matriarch Sophie reveals cracks within a family's relationships and subtly changes their dynamics, in Sonja Maria Kröner’s feature debut.
Sonja Maria Kröner
Suffused with sun-dappled bodies and the hubbub of summer activity, the debut feature by German writer-director Sonja Maria Kröner is an enchanting slow burn. Unfolding in 1970s Bavarian cottage country, The Garden tells the story of an extended family of adults and children gathering to commemorate a deceased matriarch and to laze away their holidays. Though brimming with incident, this is above all a masterfully rendered mood piece about time and family, innocence and hazard.
The very day she is laid to rest, Sofia's favourite tree is struck by lightning. It lays strewn across the vast garden that bridges various properties inhabited by her descendants, all of whom now wait to learn who will inherit the shared space they all love.
As her children and grandchildren whisper amongst themselves about their property concerns over a game of cards or an afternoon cocktail, Sofia's great-grandchildren frolic in the woods that surround them, building a treehouse, keeping a tally of who kills the most wasps, and sneaking onto the lot of a lonely old man. Somewhere in the vicinity a child murderer is on the loose, yet this terrible threat never quite eclipses other concerns, including long-brewing resentments, new-found childhood rivalries, absent fathers, and unexpected flirtations.
The Garden is unassuming and utterly transporting. You can feel its warmth — and its creeping sense of impending change. You will leave this film with no doubt that Kröner's is a vital new voice in German cinema.