A Focused Vision: Our Review of ‘Five Seasons: the Gardens of Piet Oudolf’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - May 25, 2018
A Focused Vision: Our Review of ‘Five Seasons: the Gardens of Piet Oudolf’

I know I’ve been specifically hard on documentaries that show too much archive photos and footage. However, I am giving it a pass here in the documentary Five Seasons: the Gardens of Piet Oudolf. I know nothing about gardening and I’m assuming that most cinematic audiences don’t neither. These scenes are enlightening. That’s true especially since the subject is an iconoclast in professional landscaper, which yes, is a thing. We also see artistic directors who work with him, vetting him.

The reason I like Five Seasons so much is because director Thomas Piper gives justice to Oudolf’s vision. The former also keeps his end of the bargain, showing the subject’s gardens in all five seasons. The documentary’s second season – and segment – is winter. Winter is, by the way, is the last thing in a layman’s mind when it comes to gardening. His gardens, nonetheless, are beautiful that time of year, and we see it through the flowers’ stark white colors.

Five Seasons is not just a puff piece on a professional gardener and his commissions. Through other talking heads, it smartly brings up issues like climate change, which affects the flowers he’s planning to plant. They explain to the viewer how his aesthetic plays into this. The audience sees how he incorporates many species in his gardens. This is different from the manicured versions we see everywhere else. The more flowers we see, the more we realize how precarious their existence is.

The movie also knows how to breathe in its short running time. Oudolf, who is Dutch, gets a lot of commissions in America. He doesn’t just appreciate American flora, he appreciates all of it. Never have I seen a scene in a red state barbecue that feels light. The movie shifts from a piano jazz heavy score to a country one. Yes that musical cue is on the nose but it’s joyful. His job might be pretentious but he isn’t.

It’s great to see someone in a lucrative but underappreciated job field like Oudolf to get credit. The film shows its audience that there’s an exhibit of his garden plans. These plans and sketches are equally as colorful as the final product. We also get to see one of the final products, Oudolf Field in Dursdale Farm in the spring. It’s nice to see these gardens blossoming, the physical manifestations of a great mind who knows these flowers well.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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