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Film Details

Directed by: Ermanno Olmi

Produced: 1978

Countries & Regions: Italy

DVD Details

Certificate: 12

Studio: Arrow Films

Length: 179 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 5 November 2007

Cat No: FCD314

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The Tree of Wooden Clogs

Cast: Carlo Rota , Luigi Ornaghi , Francesca Moriggi , Omar Brignoli , Antonio Ferrari , Teresa Brescianini , Giuseppe Brignoli , Pasqualina Brolis , Massimo Fratus , Francesca Villa , Maria Grazia Caroli

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On a turn-of-the-century farm in Italy, various families work for the farm owner and are paid according to their productivity. One... Read More

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On a turn-of-the-century farm in Italy, various families work for the farm owner and are paid according to their productivity. One particular family has a gifted young boy, who they decide to send to school rather than force into manual labour. However, the child has to walk many miles to get to the nearest school, and when his shoes break one day on his journey home, the family are too poor to buy a new pair.

One year in the lives of four peasant families, all living in the same farmhouse, is slowly revealed in a mosaic of small but stunning sequences. There's no hero, no antagonist, and no great wrong that gets set right. This film is simply a slice of life, a living documentary about rural existence, consisting of simple, poetic stories of children, weddings, sick animals and secret tomato growing.

It's a ravishing depiction of the changing seasons with real sympathy for ordinary people who live a very hard life. Their landlords exact a toll of two-thirds of their harvest, and by showing the injustices they suffer at the hands of those masters, Olmi reveals the viciousness of the old system and the bleak fight that has to be fought against the natural world. This culminates in a heartbreaking incident, when the tree of the title is cut down by a father to make a pair of clogs for his son to reach school, for which he suffers terrible consequences.

Olmi gathered together an ensemble cast of peasants from the area as actors, used direct sound and shot in almost documentary style. The result is a wonderfully authentic film whose characters exist so naturally that you are immediately transported to another time and place.

A testament to the strength of the human spirit, The Tree of Wooden Clogs is a contemplative, unhurried and deeply spiritual film. Winner of the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1978, it has become a model for many present day Italian film-makers and is rightly regarded as Ermanno Olmi's masterwork

This is just one of the most authentic and absorbing films ever made. It has captured the naturalness of a time when people lived mostly by daylight hours, ploughing together, falling in love, finding the shoes for the children - thus the title - when a father chops down the lord of the manor's tree to make some clogs for his son to be able to walk miles to school. The privilege of education was too great to miss but the crime has its consequences.

I watch this again and again. The opening scenes draw you in to another world. It is a gem. Don't miss it!

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