Adaption: Tom’s Midnight Garden

Michael Holman

Tom’s Midnight Garden

When Tom Long's brother Peter gets measles, Tom is sent to stay with his Uncle Alan and Aunt Gwen. They live in an upstairs flat of a big house with no garden, only a tiny yard for parking. The elderly and reclusive landlady, Mrs. Bartholomew, lives above them. Because Tom may be infectious, he is not allowed out to play, and he feels lonely. Without exercise he is less sleepy, and awake after midnight, when he hears the communal grandfather clock strangely strike 13. He gets up to investigate and discovers that the back door now opens on a large sunlit garden. Every night the clock strikes 13 and Tom returns to the Victorian era grounds. There he meets another lonely child, a younger girl called Hatty, and they become inseparable playmates. Tom sees the family and the gardener occasionally, but only Hatty sees him and the others believe she plays alone. Tom writes daily accounts to his brother Peter, who follows the adventures during his recovery — and afterward, for Tom contrives to extend the stay with Aunt and Uncle. Gradually at first, Hatty catches up to Tom's age and passes him; he comes to realise that he is slipping to different points in the past. Finally she grows up at a faster rate, until she and Barty are courting and the old garden tend to be in winter. On the final night before Tom is due to go home, he goes downstairs to find the garden is not there. He desperately tries to run around and find it, but crashes into a set of bins from the present day courtyard, waking up several residents. He shouts Hatty's name in disappointment, before his Uncle Alan finds him and puts the events down to Tom sleepwalking. The following morning, Mrs. Bartholomew summons Tom to apologise, only to reveal herself as Hatty, having made the link when she heard him call her name. The events Tom experienced were real in Hatty's past; he has stepped into them by going into the garden at the times she dreamt of them. On the final night, she had instead been dreaming of her wedding with Barty. Whilst taking Tom home, Aunt Gwen comments on the strange hug that Tom had given Mrs. Bartholomew when he left- it was like he was hugging a little girl.

The Midnight Garden
…the full rising of the sun. The illumination was perfect… …a great lawn where flower-beds bloomed; a towering fir-tree, and thick, beetle-browed yews that humped their shapes down two sides of the lawn; on the third side, to the right, a greenhouse almost the size of a real house; from each corner of the lawn, a path that twisted away to some other depths of garden, with other trees. …over the grass, leaping the flower-beds; he would peer through the glittering panes of the greenhouse— perhaps open the door and go in; he would climb the trees and make his way from one to another through thickly interlacing branches. …it lay so inviting and clear before him— clear-cut from the stubby leaf-pins of the nearer yew-trees to the curled-back petals of the hyacinths in the crescent-shaped corner beds. …tall fir-tree at the corner of the lawn, …At first he took the outermost paths, gravelled and box-edged, …a cross-path. It tunnelled through the gloom of yew-trees arching overhead from one side, and hazel nut stubs from the other: ahead was a grey-green triangle of light where the path must come out into the open again.

…through gaps in the yew-trees on his right, the flick of a lighter colour than the yew: dark— light— dark— light— dark … The lighter colour, he realized, was the back of the house that he was glimpsing, and he must be passing behind the line of yew-trees that faced it across the lawn.
…asparagus beds of the kitchen-garden— so he found them later to be. Beyond their long, grave-like mounds was a dark oblong— a pond. At one end of the pond, and overlooking it, stood an octagonal summer-house with an arcaded base and stone steps up to its door.

…Beyond the pond and the summer-house was another path, meandering in idle curves. On the other side of this path was a stretch of wilderness and then a hedge. …Of the four sides of the garden, Tom had already observed that three were walled: one by the back of the house itself, another by a very high south wall, built of clunch blocks and brick; and another by a lower wall that might well prove climbable. …it— its paths and alleys and archways, its bushes and trees. He noted some of its landmarks. At a corner of the lawn, a fir-tree towered up above all the other trees of the garden; it was wound about with ivy, through which its boughs stuck out like a child’s arms through the wrappings of a shawl. On the high south wall, half covered by the sporting of a vine, there was a sundial; it was surmounted by a stone sun with stone rays, and its chin was buried in curly stone clouds— looking like his father’s chin covered with shaving lather, Tom thought. To one side of the sundial, under a honeysuckle archway, was a door: …At the greenhouse, he did no more than look through the glass at the plants inside, and at the water tank, where a gleam came and went— perhaps a goldfish waking. The raised cucumber-frames by the greenhouse were walked round in less than a minute. He passed hastily along beside the aviary, where fan-tail pigeons were beginning to pick their way across the brick floor. …kitchen-garden beyond the asparagus beds: fruit trees and strawberry beds and bean poles and a chicken-wire enclosure where raspberry canes and gooseberry bushes and currant bushes lived sheltered from the attack of birds. Beside the gooseberry wire grew a row of rhubarb. Each clump was covered with the end of an old tub or pot drain-pipe with sacking over the top. Between the loose staves of one of the tub-ends was something white— a piece of paper. It was folded, and addressed in a childish hand— if one could call it an address: ‘To Oberon, King of Fairies.’ …He came out upon the lawn again. Here were the flower-beds— the crescent-shaped corner-beds with the hyacinths, among which an early bee was already working. …The sun’s rays gleamed over all the garden, warming it to life and sucking up the drenching dew; the sundial’s iron finger threw a shadow at last, …The sun was the gold, in a blue sky.

Intentions and Audience
- Adapting the Midnight Garden into a digital set for film - Aimed for 10-16 year old audience

Previous Portrayals

Victorian Era Gardens

Art Direction: Romanticism
An artistic and intellectual movement originating in Europe in the late 18th century and characterized by a heightened interest in nature, emphasis on the individual's expression of emotion and imagination, departure from the attitudes and forms of classicism, and rebellion against established social rules and conventions.

In England landscape gardening was used to express the romantic aesthetic by means of deliberate imitation of the picturesque in nature.

Art Direction: Art Nouveau
A style of art and architecture of the 1890s, characterized by swelling sinuous outlines and stylized natural forms, such as flowers and leaves. Art nouveau was filled with images from natural plant life, which was translated into simple free-flowing design. Flowers were a common element, as the lily, poppy and iris were popular motifs in the period's signature asymmetrical borders. The integration of organic objects into the design didn't stop there, as bugs, leaves, vines and blades of grass were typical in border posters, interior design and decorative accessories.

Initial Concepts

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