The Tree of Wooden Clogs

Starring: Luigi Ornaghi, Francesca Moriggi and Omar Brignoli
Arrow Films
RRP: 17.99
Certificate: 12
Available 15 October 2007

Batisti is a proud but poor peasant who wants a better life for his young son. He sends the boy to a school which is quite a long walk away. Wearing his only pair of wooden clogs, the child makes the long trek to class every day on foot. All is well until the clogs are damaged. Wood is scarce, as is money, so Batisti sneaks onto their rich landlord's grove to "borrow" the wood to make a new pair. But when his crime is discovered the rich man decides to make an example of Batisti and his family...

The Tree of Wooden Clogs (L'Albero Degli Zoccoli) is a 1978 Italian film which was written and directed by Ermanno Olmi.

The movie shows a year in the life of a group of peasants in northern Italy near the turn of the 20th century. The story is simple (basically the synopsis above is the entire plot) but the film, which is nearly three hours in length, really spends a lot of time introducing the viewer to what the environment is like and slowly letting us into the lives of a group of peasant farmers. In some respects it has a documentary feel to it. The film shows a farming cycle and weaves the lives of the main characters into this.

There are a couple of uncomfortable scenes where the farmers slaughter animals for food, but on the whole this is a beautiful film that really captures the bleakness of the main characters.

While some could argue that this movie is a little long in duration and that it would have been simple to cut at least an hour and a half out of the movie, as most of it shows the workers toiling in the fields and generally going about their daily chores. But, this is the heart of the movie. For the movie's duration the viewer gets to see all four seasons and the hard work that the peasants have to endure to make ends meet.

The only extra on the disc is a 14 minute interview with the director. This was from an Italian TV interview in which the interviewer is more interested in the sound of his own voice than actually letting Olmi talk about his film. There are a number of long clips from the movie, which take up a little too much time. The sound is also incredible quiet.

The Tree of Wooden Clogs is a beautiful movie, but not one that will appeal to everyone.

Nick Smithson

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