A painterly and sensual immersion in late nineteenth-century Italian farm life, Ermanno Olmi’s The Tree of Wooden Clogs lovingly focuses on four families working for one landowner on an isolated estate in the province of Bergamo—a towering, heart-stirring work of humanist filmmaking.
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The relationship between workers and land is mediated through economical hierarchies. The little boy is part of the 1st generation to deviate from this working tradition: he's going to study. He doesn't need to get dirty like his parents, but once again the economical factor plays an important role: his worn-out clogs need to be repaired, the contact with the ground is restored, but as some kind of decline. (...)
A real beauty--a deep immersion in another life and time just adjacent to our own. Besides its considerable rustic charms, almost mystic in their polyphonic intensities (a la Jean Giono's novels of epic pastoralia, and marinaded in Bach), Olmi's masterpiece offers a fascinating, vivid tableaux of feudalism's fade into capitalism, as devoid of nostalgia for the former as it is without illusions about the latter. 4.5.
This monumental film, seen on a proper setting, does carry one to the rural Italy at the dawn of the twentieth century. Olmi's unique approach towards a "realist" narrative -which often involves documenting amateur actors in real locations with the addition of cinematic techniques, such as the interplay between objective and subjectives perspectives and narrative flashbacks- is what makes this journey near perfect.
This is to have a regard for the real. Not so much documentary-like; the camera is not observational, not recording something it doesn't know. And yet it doesn't know every move of these figures, the look on these faces. It seems not so much constructed or witnessed, as participated. It knows the flow of life, this life, but avoid to lock its sight. Too strong a regard for the real: so It watches over.