The Tree of Wooden Clogs Screen 9 articles

The Tree of Wooden Clogs

1978

The Tree of Wooden Clogs Poster
  • Maybe I couldn't get past my totally unfair preconception, or maybe (more likely) I'm just too aggressively urban to appreciate a long, plotless portrait of a 19th-century peasant community... Mostly, The Tree of Wooden Clogs offers credible depictions of mundane rural activities that I'm afraid just aren't inherently fascinating to me.

  • Rich with incident but thin on ideas—less an advance over the standard film festival peasant epic than an unusually accomplished rendition of it. The characters and situations are oppressively familiar; Olmi's wide-eyed, wondering point of view helps to freshen them, but not enough to overcome completely the Marxist sentimentalism inherent in the concept.

  • 1979 The harmonious unity of Ermanno Olmi’s film, despite one or two discordant notes, stems largely from the director’s circumspect approach to all its elements. The parts are justly proportioned and nothing is allowed to command undue attention: indeed, it is the director’s dispassionate attitude to all the vicissitudes of life that chiefly distinguishes the film’s unique tone.

  • Although Olmi, who also wrote, photographed, and edited the film, poeticizes some aspects of the peasant farming community—perhaps a hazard of filming in such pastoral parts—he presents a clear-eyed portrait of the farmers’ relationship to the land as one that’s practical rather than mystically earthy; in doing so he affords them an astonishing humanity.

  • The film accomplishes a very rare and special feat: it comes as close as cinema can to capturing the rhythm and flow of life itself, and it does so without losing its audience on one end or its honesty on the other.

  • Olmi is unafraid to let his characters simply _be_; the film pulls us along on the power of its mesmeric authenticity. That’s not to say that it’s apolitical, however. These peasants’ acceptance of their meager lot in life, and their very human ability to find what beauty and happiness they can in it, carry a political charge. This is one of the great films of its decade, and absolutely worth seeing on a big screen.

  • Ermanno Olmi is a director who has raised the moral bar for contemporary Italian cinema. The sacredness of life, the dignity of work, and the human yearning for contact with God are themes that deeply color his work, but nowhere so movingly as in The Tree of Wooden Clogs, which has a vibrant realism that makes the audience feel that they are shoulder to shoulder with its protagonists, the dirt-poor northern Italian sharecroppers whose deep, abiding faith is extraordinarily moving.

  • The images, feeling both painterly and improvised at times, aren't the product of a calculated thesis or historical account. Yet they're also not humanist anymore than they're nihilistic because Olmi's interest in these people and their milieu embraces both of those inclinations in equal measure. The film suggests pain and pleasure are fundamental components of the human condition and refuses to attribute the source of either to a strictly causal chain of logic or events.

  • Using a cast of non- professional actors – credited collectively as “the people of the Bergamo countryside” – Olmi taps into the details of a specific cultural experience. Age-old traditions, superstitions, celebration songs, and rites of passage all come to define the film’s sense of time and place.

More Links