Monday, November 28, 2005

The Constant Gardener

We went to see this movie last night in Basingstoke. Typological plot summary: ENFJ activist Tessa meets INTP diplomat Justin Quayle and marries him. They go to Africa where Justin cultivates his garden in the High Commission in an introverted alternative reality, whilst all around his slimy FCO colleagues are helping coarse and evil big Pharma work with the corrupt local Government. Africa is portrayed as the locals living in a garbage heap amidst great natural beauty.

Tessa and local help unmask big Pharma drug testing on hapless locals - Tessa's direct moral intensity embarrasses the hypocritical games of diplomacy all around her, but she makes the fatal mistake of trusting said diplomats (Justin meanwhile is unaware of all this). Tessa is killed for her pains. The remaining part of the film shows Justin coming out of his gardening-centric world and extraverting his NT skills to find out what's really going on. He, of course, gets killed too, but the real message of 'what's going on' succeeds in getting out.

A film like this - Tessa is the mouthpiece for John Le Carre's own explosive moral indignation - has more impact and 'market share' than anything the fictionalised Tessa could have hoped to achieve. After all, the audience knows that the plot is thinly disguised fact. Yet tomorrow, big Pharma will be doing exactly the same.

We know the emotional motives for justice which impell Le Carre - they are present in all of us. Institutions will continue to pursue their interests where they can, and not care too much about collateral damage. We are back to the familiar territory of the 'circle of empathy', with those inside it and those without.

Individuals with exceptional moral conviction will always be driven to action at the boundary, but only sometimes will the underlying conditions allow their actions to effect a step-change, and a widening of the circle. Mostly they will be considered totally unrealistic emotional idiots who self-indulgently create problems for everyone else. And that harsh judgement will also be correct. The film, however, is good enough to make Justin's acceptance of his wife's cause in this case not a betrayal of his own rationality.

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