Versailles: Symbol of the 17th century French Ancien Régime and absolute monarchy.
When one thinks of that vast baroque palace and its classically elegant gardens, commissioned by Louis XIV (aptly called ‘The Sun King’), one tends to remember the last monarch to occupy the ‘Château’: the dithering Louis XVI and his extravagant queen, and one doubtless supposes that Marie Antoinette got just what she deserved when the masses revolted and lopped off her head neat as a cabbage rose.
This film is not about any of that, nor is it another travel documentary, of which there are plenty. ‘A Gardener in Versailles’, while essential viewing for a scholar of French Studies, will also appeal to the student of Botany, Landscape Architecture, Sustainable Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, or Natural History.
Commissioned for French television in 2013 and lauded for its originality, the lyrical, transporting ‘A Gardener in Versailles’ follows Alain Baraton, head gardener for over three decades, and his crew of fifty (!) dedicated men and women, as they toil through the four seasons, rigorously maintaining 815 hectares—about 2,000 acres—of forested land (working with horses so as not to damage the soil) and planting vast swaths of flower beds from the original grafts, transforming the gardens into a paradise of the past, complete with enchanting secret enclaves, ancient vineyards and greenhouses filled with exotic plants rarely seen outside their native habitat.
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Baraton admits he is a dreamer, who “wants us to see what the king saw.” At the same time, he tells us that “Our job is not to please the king, but the people who come here.”
In this film, we see for the first time the incredible scientific effort that goes on behind the scenes, to recreate for us—and six million yearly visitors—the most famous gardens in the world, where every season has a purpose and unique charm.
Cultivate your inner horticulturist; discover the fabulous gardens of Versailles. PLEASE NOTE: This 52 minute film is FRENCH with ENGLISH subtitles.
A Gardener of Versailles DVD $250 Licesing INCLUDES classroom screening and closed campus streaming.