7.2/10
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The Cement Garden (1993)

Not Rated | | Drama | 11 February 1994 (USA)
Four children try to hold things together and play a family in their isolated prefab house after the death of their parents. As they begin to deteriorate mentally, they hide their mom's festering corpse in a makeshift concrete sarcophagus.

Director:

Andrew Birkin

Writers:

Andrew Birkin, Ian McEwan (novel)
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2 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Andrew Robertson ... Jack
Charlotte Gainsbourg ... Julie
Alice Coulthard ... Sue
Ned Birkin Ned Birkin ... Tom
Sinéad Cusack ... Mother
Hanns Zischler ... Father
Jochen Horst ... Derek, Julie's Friend
Gareth Brown Gareth Brown ... William
William Hootkins ... Commander Hunt (voice)
Dick Flockhart Dick Flockhart ... Truck Driver
Mike Clark Mike Clark ... Driver's Mate
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Storyline

After the death of her husband, the mother of Julie, Jack, Sue and Tom begins to suffer from a mysterious illness. Aware that she is going to have to go into hospital she opens a bank account for the children, so that they can be financially self-sufficient and will be able to avoid being taken into care by the authorities. Unfortunately she also dies and Julie and Jack (the older, teenage children) decide to hide her body in the basement so that they can have free reign of their household. Soon Tom has taken to dressing as a girl whilst Sue has become increasingly reticent, confiding only to her diary, meanwhile Jack and Julie sense an attraction developing for each other. However Julie's new beau, Derek, threatens to unearth the many dark secrets within this family as he becomes increasingly suspicious of Jack. Written by Jagged-11

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Love knows no limits.

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

France | Germany | UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

11 February 1994 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A cementkert See more »

Filming Locations:

London, England, UK

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$322,975
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Ian Holm has an uncredited voice role. He dubbed the voice of the father, played by German actor Hanns Zischler. See more »

Goofs

When Jack brings in the tray to his mum, when she's in her room, he draws back the curtains to let some light in. However, the light obviously comes not from outside, but from a source of light somewhere above (not visible). See more »

Quotes

Julie: Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots, because it's OK to be a boy, but for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, because you think that being a girl is degrading. But secretly you'd love to know what it's like, wouldn't you? What it feels like for a girl?
See more »

Connections

Featured in Zomergasten: Episode #10.2 (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

Me & J.C.
Composed by David Gilmour
© Pink Floyd Music Publishers Ltd.
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
It's a family affair
12 November 1999 | by DeeNine-2See all my reviews

There's an almost heroic honesty to this urbanized, co-ed "Lord of the Flies"-ish love story. A square stone house serves as the isolated island while the jungle is the familiar setting of urban sprawl and other people. Director Andrew Birkin, in adapting Ian McEwan's novel (The Comfort of Strangers) to the screen, doesn't try to shock us. He just ignores our prejudices and lets fall away our preconceptions. What emerges is a sense of liberation from the usual hypocrisy.

The love story is an acting out of sister-brother incest, almost a celebration of it. "Seems natural to me" is what fifteen-year-old Jack (Andrew Robertson) says while in the naked embrace of his older sister Julie (Charlotte Gainsbourg). I could almost buy it, but I know of the "kibbutz effect" in which it was found that unrelated children growing up together virtually never married one another. If sister and brother grow up separately there can be sexual excitement between them, but if they grow up in the same household they tend to find each other sexually boring. Family members usually work out the sexual tension through play at an early age so that by the time they are sexually mature, they are looking elsewhere. That's how the incest taboo works. Its purpose is to channel the sexual drive outward, the better to mix the gene pool. For the individual, incest is not an attractive option socially or economically because it is so much better to increase one's family and influence by joining with someone from another tribe or band. If you marry your sister, you don't gain any brothers. Consequently the average person recoils at the mere suggestion of incest, and it is this mindless, knee jerk reaction that this film attacks.

Consider isolated families in the pre-history. What other reproductive choice would they have? Certainly it is better to reproduce in the hope that the next generation might find partners. This evolutionary wisdom is what is captured here. The sexual drive is seen as stronger than society's ephemeral prejudices, and rightly so since our genes must survive even when the society is stupid and self-destructive in its mores.

Birkin's direction lacks focus in the beginning and the editing seems brilliant and disjointed by turns, but Birkin eschews even the hint of a cliché and ends up with a slightly flawed, but engrossing, strikingly original work of cinematic art.

I'm disappointed that the sound track did not include the seventies Motown tune, "It's a Family Affair."

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)


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