I was a little hesitant about spending five minutes watching what promised to be a rather-pretentious experimental home video about somebody's garden. Surely it couldn't show me anything that my own backyard hadn't already revealed! However, Marie Menken's 'Glimpse of the Garden (1957)' is, in its own suspiciously-pointless way, worthwhile viewing, if only for being an unexpected flurry of floral colours and avian songs. The film starts just like a lame garden home-video that I myself made when I first received my new camcorder, a collection of static shots showing vaguely-pretty vegetation filmed from chest level. The soundtrack is comprised entirely of the calls of garden birds, their gentle tweets and twitters serving to soothe the senses, and effectively evoking the feeling that one is standing in a garden. Menken cuts quickly from one shot to the next, barely leaving enough time for each image to register. This pacing is successful in that it obscures the fact that her subject matter is rather ordinary; whether you're shooting a person's face or a park bench, extra-fast editing always serves to keep the viewer on their toes.
After the two-minute mark, the film begins to get more interesting. Rather than prolonging this rather mundane everyday view of a garden, Menken begins to indulge in super-close compositions of floral components sometimes crisply-focused, sometimes blurred, sometimes static, sometimes panning from left-to-right, and vice versa. This new approach, though very erratic in the choice of editing style, works well because it takes the viewer somewhere they've never been before; this is no longer an ordinary garden, but a majestic unsung paradise of weird and wonderful artistic creations of nature. All the while, the garden birds continue to chirp their beautiful song, the only sound that is now reaching our ears. The soundtrack of nature cannot be rivalled for its brilliant simplicity. In 2007, this virtually-unknown experimental film was nominated for the National Film Registry, along with an assortment of popular and obscure American motion pictures. 'Glimpse of the Garden' is certainly something of an oddity, and it doesn't really achieve anything exceptional, but, as far as intimate garden strolls go, it ain't all that bad.
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