The Pleasure Garden is the earliest available film from Alfred Hitchcock. Does it show signs of the master of suspense?
So, this review is going to be a little tough as not only is it the first Hitchcock film I’ve watched, but it’s also the first silent film I’ve ever seen.
Let’s get right into what this film is. So, this is an adaptation of the book of the same name written by Oliver Sandys, the story of the film is a simple one. It follows two women who are stage performers, one more successful then the other. And two men who love each of them. Of course, there is some relationship volatility between them all, but it is a very basic romantic drama.
It’s hard to review films that are this old, 1925. But alas, I will try my best to review this as if it was c current film. Of course, there will be historical things that are important and relevant but ill let the historians cover that aspect of this.
Let’s start with the story of The Pleasure Garden. Unfortunately the story is nothing to really get attached to. Maybe it’s the silent film of it all or the basicness, but there isn’t much to latch onto emotionally here in the story department which is expected of such an old film and with the limitation of the silent film.
The real standouts in this and honestly a reason to check it out is the beautiful score that plays nonstop through the film. . it’s a very beautiful orchestral score from its time from the composer Lee Erwin.
The second stand out is the cinematography, even aged almost a hundred years the visuals by Gaetano di Ventimiglia still looks fantastic. With some interesting compositions and beautiful close ups. Obviously shot on film, it still feels and breathes visually.
The other thing I adored about The Pleasure Garden was the editing, (couldn’t find the credited editor online.). but I loved one transition specifically where the waving hand of a woman saying goodbye melts into a wave of a woman saying hello. What it said emotionally and thematically was an amazing and simple cinematic feat. There are many other moments of frames over frames that were also beautiful.
So of course, we must talk about the Hitchcock of it all. This being his earliest work is an interesting thing to note. There are 5 other works he directed before this. (From my basic research, please correct me if wrong) from what I’ve gathered most of those films were your typical director for hire type of work. Hitchcock hadn’t gained the notoriety or fame that he would begin to gain soon.
Now I gotta note, I have never seen a single Hitchcock film, so I can’t really say what all is being hinted and noted at here that is his style and what he become in the future. But a few things that stood out to me already was. One, the dark twisted ending. I won’t spoil the ending, but it does have a twinge of horror and also abuse and psychopathy. Also, I loved the way he used close ups and beautiful profile shots. There are also shots implying that they are eyes, early on with the binoculars, and loved that forced perspective peek, I must imagine this is only a hint of what he does in films like rear window in the future. And lastly the emotional resonance of cuts, the one I mentioned earlier being a highlight. Also, strong women having men on a teether? But also showing abusive cheating men? I’m curious if any of these elements or notes continue forth in his filmography.
And last thing is the silent film of it all, how does a silent film play in modern day? Not that bad. I was surprised to see how much dialogue is understood and delivered without any captions or card inserts. The acting of all the performers really delivers most of the dialogue needed and I even connected to main female character emotionally. It was almost like watching a film in a foreign language. At first, it’s a tad awkward reading the subtitles but after a few minutes its all blurs into just being part of the experience.
So, in ending,
The Pleasure Garden = 6/10 Decent
The earliest available film from the legend Alfred Hitchcock is a pleasant watch. Short and to the point. It has no real depth, but it does hint at a few possibilities of the future. I love the visuals and the non-stop score and a few beautiful edits. For a first-time silent film, I think it’s a nice entry point for anyone curious about the form. And for an early showing of Hitchcock I think it hints and offers a unique peak of the master not in his prime yet.