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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This is a beautiful film. Olmi captures the natural rhythms of life and love. There is a deep sense of faith and humility as well as tenderness in the depiction of ordinary experience. The director manipulates unstylized reality in order to create wonderful art. In a quiet and unassuming way, watching this film is life enhancing.
Adorno says of Beehoven that we do not understand music. "It understands us." Within this film is a world that one is witness to, can live in, and have deep affection for. The film is larger than itself and larger than film: it exceeds the boundaries of film and is plentiful with a fecundity that is rare. Deep reverence and respect permeate it. It is as if Olmi is caressing the material world and its beings.
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.
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. (...)
One of the most simple and yet overwhelmingly beautiful films. Each scene moves with such humble purity, to describe the film, as someone above has tried, makes the film sound foolish, but it is this full realisation of the simple beauty of life itself that transcends through every frame. One of the greatest film experiences I've ever enjoyed.