The Creator Of The Jungle


Reviewed by: Rebecca Naughten

Creator Of The Jungle
"Arguably, the film feels the absence of the broader context of Garrell's life."

A documentary about creative expression on the margins of society, The Creator Of The Jungle tells the story of Garrell, who created his own version of a jungle at the side of a busy highway in Catalonia. As someone who grew up happiest when he was interacting with nature, Garrell's projects see him effectively trying to tame the elements - he starts with water and later moves on to fire - and create a refuge from the outside world and so-called "civilised man".

However his endeavour grew into something more than a refuge - as his buildings and constructions became more elaborate, they also became more visible to the world beyond the forest. Garrell was no longer hidden and, although he welcomed those who wished to visit and explore, the encroachment of civilisation persistently caused problems for him.

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This battle with outside elements found parallel expression in a series of home movies Garrell directed and starred in - filmed by local teenager Aleix Oliveras on his family's camcorder - in the first half of the 1990s, in which he portrays Tarzan in a continuous battle with "civilised man". Garrell is shown - complete with home-fashioned loin cloth - shinning up trees and jumping into rivers and lakes, scaling cliffs and fighting recalcitrant goats. Director Jordi Morató interlaces these Boy's Own adventures (and footage of Garrell's working methods, filmed later by an art historian) with a voiceover detailing the facts of what Garrell was dealing with in reality - the 'fiction' can be seen as both a coping mechanism and the only way he could express his infuriation with the people damaging his environment, although the film does not explore the psychological side of Garrell's behaviour.

Garrell initially seems a placable figure, intent of foiling the vandals by making his labyrinth even more fiendish rather than engaging in direct confrontation - but when they killed some of his animals, a line was crossed. His response was to set about destroying the small city it had taken him years to engineer and construct - he systematically burnt it down. Nonetheless, before long, he was drawn back to his old stomping ground and rebuilt bigger and more elaborate structures - the towers reaching up into the sky and the intricately beautiful woven tunnels of his labyrinth crisscrossing the forest floor. But after years of construction - and despite the 'jungle' now being categorised as one of the finest examples of outsider art in the world - civilisation encroached on Garrell's kingdom once more when the expansion of the highway led to a demolition order.

At the point at which the director met his subject, Garrell was building the third incarnation of his refuge - he has refined his craft over the years and there is clear artistry in his design and methods - but he was to be foiled again. The differences between the circumstances of each of the instances of demolition and destruction are sufficient for the film not to feel repetitive, but it is slightly frustrating that Garrell only ever communicates at one remove, either via the Tarzan exploits or the buildings themselves.

There is very little footage of Garrell talking directly about what his creations mean to him, or what drives him, and he is not interviewed. Arguably, the film feels the absence of the broader context of Garrell's life. Although Tarzan says that the forest has everything he needs, Garrell doesn't appear to live in the jungle - and presumably worked in some other capacity over the 45 years he has been creating in the forest - but no other aspects of his life are shown to us. That said, the way his creations repeatedly rise from the ashes speaks to his indomitable spirit, and suggests that whatever setbacks are thrown in his path, Garrell is always on the go.

Reviewed on: 13 Nov 2014
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The story of a man who built his own jungle by the side of a highway, and how he rebuilt and destroyed it three times.

Director: Jordi Morató

Writer: Jordi Morató

Starring: Josep Pijiula "Garrell", Ricard Ayats, Ivó Pijiula, Aleix Oliveras, Josep M.Costa, Albert Pujolar, Jordi Pujolar, David Fernández, Miquel Masdevall, Isaac Merino, Joel Vila

Year: 2014

Runtime: 77 minutes

Country: Spain

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