I went the other day to watch the movie of The Secret Garden, based on the much-loved novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The book was published in 1911 and has been filmed several times. I was disappointed in this new version and actually found it rather dull.
A vital theme of the novel is the power of work – Mary, Colin and Dickon work in the garden, learning in the process that what is neglected withers and dies, but what is nurtured and tended can bring joy and regeneration. However, the film failed to show a single bit of work taking place in the garden – just swimming and play. The time period in which the novel was set was changed, Dickon and his sister Martha are acted by Jamaican actors (and in these days of colour-blind casting, their black skins were never commented on once, although in Victorian England black servants in a Yorkshire manor would have been highly unusual), there was some magical growth of plants which was very unconvincing, and the ending was greatly changed. Why? It’s a wonderful story, with a good moral message that is as relevant today as when the book was written, so why make changes that do nothing to improve it? Even Colin Firth (with a hunched back, so looking very different from Mr Darcy) couldn’t rescue the film for me – such a disappointment!