The Tree of Wooden Clogs
(L’albero degli zoccoli)
Luigi Ornaghi, Francesca Moriggi, Omar Brignoli, Antonio Ferrari,
Restored by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata with funding provided by The Film Foundation.
Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, The Tree of Wooden Clogs is the epic made personal, a cinema of majesty constructed from minutiae. Set in northern Italy in the early 1900s, the film follows three families of farmers and their interactions with their community, their wealthy landlord, and the land itself. Sprawling, politicized peasant epics (Bertolucci’s 1900, the Tavianis’ Padre, Padrone) were the rage in 1970s European cinema, but here economic oppression and daily toil are not exploited for narrative spectacle, but quietly felt and keenly observed. Nearly every scene documents the movement and rhythm of labor, with characters lugging, husking, pulling, flinging, and pushing items destined to be other people’s commodities. Constant close-ups of hands, faces, and bodies (the film is “interpreted by the people of the Bergamo countryside,” per the opening credits) underline Ermanno Olmi’s pure love of workers and the world around them (in addition to writing, producing, and directing, he also shot the film), as understated as a countryside awakening at dawn, or a firelit whisper between parents and children.