Garden of Earthly Delights, The (2004): Polish Director Majewski’s Tale of Erotic Love and Art (Hieronymus Bosch Triptych Painting)

A luminous treatise on art, love and death, Polish director Lech Majewski’s The Garden of Earthly Delights (Ogród rozkoszy ziemskich) follows two lovers in Venice, Italy, in amazingly honest detail.

Majewski, who had previously made Glass Lips and Gospel According to Harry, is not as well known in the U.S. as he is in Europe.

The film’s title derives, of course, from the famous Hieronymus Bosch triptych painting, though writer-director Majewski works from his own novel, Metaphysics.

Claudine (Claudine Spiteri), a British art scholar suffering from terminal throat cancer, is in Venice to give a lecture on the Bosch painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights.  She is joined by her lover Chris (Chris Nightingale), a nautical engineer.

The couple explore Venice, recording its canals with Chris’ video camera, and we view them chat (about serious and light matters), rent an apartment, swim, have sex, and, of course, recreate vignettes from the triptych.

Like Dante’s figure, Beatrice, Claudine becomes Chris’ seductive guide into a complex labyrinth of love, sensuality, death, regret, and ultimately redemption.

The secondary characters include National Gallery warder (Barr Chipperfield), realtor (Maria Novella Martinoli), and Professor Carrini (Gian Campi).

The imagery is consistently fresh and alluring in capturing a tale of physical passion, emotional discovery, and obsession with art.

The artist’s famed work becomes more than a background for the couple’s mutual erotic passion and intimate emotional journey, as they get to know each other–and themselves.

The film was released by Kino in 2004.

Running time: 104 minutes.