The Constant Gardener is a film that depicts not only the love story between a young diplomat (Justin Quayle) and a leftist (Tessa) but also the ill conditions of disadvantaged people in Third World countries, particularly in Africa. Quayle, also a horticulturist, met Tessa in one of the affairs of British High Commission where he serves as lecturer. The two fall in love which leads to an instantaneous marriage. Later, Tessa persuades Quayle to take her on his trip to Africa where she decides to settle until she finished her secret mission. Tessa works together with Doctor Arnold Bluhm, a Kenyan native, who is also monitoring the dubious medical mission being conducted by a group of medical representatives through the sponsorship of one of the largest pharmaceutical industries in United States. When Tessa is about to reveal the secret mission of the pharmaceutical company, she is silenced to death by unknown slayers. Rumors about Tessa’s affair with the Black doctor spread. However, Quayle suspects that there is more to it than just an affair. Quayle decides to investigate the real cause of his wife’s death, leading him to the discovery of the underground activity being conducted to the people of Kenya, Africa where the British High Commission, the United States and a large pharmaceutical company known as KDH (Karel Delacourt Hudson) are involved (The Constant Gardener).
Looking at the economic issues depicted in the film, one may easily noticed how First World businessman (Lobeer, the owner of KDH pharmaceutical company) uses his connection and business strategy to get the support of the British government and the United States. The establishment of the company, as Sandy Woodrow reasoned to Quayle, opens job opportunities for the people of Wallace at the expense of using the poor African people as test animals for their newly invented medicine (Dypraxa). KDH sponsors a medical mission to Kenya where they believe that TB is prevalent among poor population. Those who were diagnosed with the disease are being forced to take the medicine. Those who will not comply will not be given an “informed consent” card which serves as a pass for a free medical consultation (The Constant Gardener). However, the effects of medicine turn out to be worse as many Africans died after taking the medicine. While the people of Africa are mourning for the death of their beloved, the pharmaceutical company owners continuously conduct their experiment. This only shows that there are rich people and corporations out there that are likely to use the marginalized group in order for them to earn money and for their own advantage. Poor people who fall for the trap of capitalists are left with no choice but to comply accordingly with their orders, as these capitalists can manipulate or deny the poor access to their basic needs (Paulson 325-326). Thus, economics play a major role in this movie in which the filmmakers depict the struggle of the poor against the capitalists who use their disadvantaged situation to earn money. Moreover, the film also shows how the government (here the United States and Britain) is being manipulated by some businessmen to their advantage. While the government wants to create jobs for its people, these businessmen would guarantee an offer provided that from the dealings, they would also generate a large income. As quoted from the movie, “We derived the benefits of civilization—benefits that we can afford easily because of those lives that were bought so cheaply” (The Constant Gardener).
Although “The Constant Gardener” does not present all the issues covered in Le Carre’s novel, the movie is still remarkably well-presented, for the filmmakers have successfully depicted the struggle of African people against poverty and against the oppression of a few advantaged groups. The film effectively demonstrates how the poor population in Africa battles with different diseases and their desperate need of medical attention. Although Britain in the movie is more involved with the struggle of the African people, there are instances when the political and economical involvement of the United States is also emphasized. Politically, if the United States would continue to produce or to support pharmaceutical industries that utilize other people as test animals for their newly developed drugs, such actions would weaken its political relationships with Third World countries. They will be perceived as a monster that devours weak people in order to sustain their economy. Generally, the film enlightens its viewers about the struggle of poor people. In Karl Marx’s communist theory, such struggle is inflicted by capitalists. However, this movie could also serve as an eye-opener that warns the audience against pharmaceutical industries which create the need for “improved” drugs, and against the exploitation of marginalized people for the purpose of promoting not-yet-proven-effective drugs.
The Constant Gardener. Dir. Fernando Meirelles. Perfs. Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz. Universal City, California: Focus Features, 2005.
Paulson, Ronald. Sin and Evil Moral Values in Literature. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2007.