The Tree of Wooden Clogs

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The Tree of Wooden Clogs
Original film poster
Directed byErmanno Olmi
Written byErmanno Olmi
StarringLuigi Ornaghi
Francesca Moriggi
Omar Brignoli
CinematographyErmanno Olmi
Edited byErmanno Olmi
Release dates
September 21, 1978 (Italy)
June 1, 1979 (U.S.)
Running time
186 mins

The Tree of Wooden Clogs (Italian: L'Albero degli zoccoli) is a 1978 Italian film written and directed by Ermanno Olmi. The film concerns Lombard peasant life in a cascina (farmhouse) of the late 19th century. It has some similarities with the earlier Italian neorealist movement, in that it focuses on the lives of the poor, and the parts were played by real farmers and locals, rather than professional actors.

It won fourteen awards including the Palme d'Or at Cannes[1] and the César Award for Best Foreign Film. The original version of the movie is spoken in Lombard (the Bergamasque variety, an Eastern Lombard dialect).

In 2008, the film was included on the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage’s 100 Italian films to be saved, a list of 100 films that "have changed the collective memory of the country between 1942 and 1978."[2]



The narrative unfolds around four peasant families who work on farms for the same landlord, scraping out a meager existence in the countryside around Bergamo in 1898. Over the course of a year, children are born, crops are planted, animals slaughtered, and couples married; stories and prayers are exchanged in the families' shared farmhouse. Undercurrents of revolution are noticed by the peasants but largely ignored, as a communist rabble-rouser gives a speech at a local fair and a newlywed couple visits the big city of Milan, witnessing the arrest of political prisoners. When spring arrives, the father from one of the four families cuts down a tree to make wooden clogs (an alder, referenced in the title because its wood was typically used for this kind of handwork)[3][4] that his son can use to walk to school. However, the landowner discovers this, and the family is forced off their land by the incensed landlord. The remaining families watch them go, praying for them and recognising their own fragile existence.


  • Luigi Ornaghi - Batistì
  • Francesca Moriggi - Batistina
  • Omar Brignoli - Minec
  • Antonio Ferrari - Tuni
  • Teresa Brescianini - Widow Runk
  • Giuseppe Brignoli - Anselmo
  • Carlo Rota - Peppino
  • Pasqualina Brolis - Teresina
  • Massimo Fratus - Pierino
  • Francesca Villa - Annetta
  • Maria Grazia Caroli - Bettina
  • Battista Trevaini - Il Finard
  • Giuseppina Langalelli - La Moglie Finarda
  • Lorenzo Pedroni - Il nonno Finard
  • Felice Cervi - Uslì

Critical acclaim[edit]

British filmmaker Mike Leigh praised the film in The Daily Telegraph's 'Film makers on film' interview series, on 19 October 2002. Leigh pays tribute to the film’s humanity, realism, and vast scale. He called the film “extraordinary on a number of levels”, before concluding “this guy [Olmi] is a genius, and that's all there is to it”.[5] Leigh has described Olmi's epic of peasant life in Lombardy as the ultimate location film: " Directly, objectively, yet compassionately, it puts on the screen the great, hard, real adventure of living and surviving from day to day, and from year to year, the experience of ordinary people everywhere...the camera is always in exactly the right place...but the big question, arising out of these truthful and utterly convincing performances achieved by non-actors, always remains: how does he really do it?"[6] When Al Pacino was asked by the AFI what his favourite movie was, he admitted that he "always liked The Tree Of Wooden Clogs."[7] Gene Siskel loved the movie and put it on his list of the 10 Best Films of 1980.

In 2003, The New York Times placed the film on its Best 1000 Movies Ever list.[8]


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Tree of Wooden Clogs". Retrieved 2009-05-20.
  2. ^ "Ecco i cento film italiani da salvare Corriere della Sera". Retrieved 2021-03-11.
  3. ^ [bare URL PDF]
  4. ^ "L'Officina dell'Ambiente | PRESSO LA RIVA: l'ONTANO".
  5. ^ Monahan, Mark (2002-10-19). "Film makers on film: Mike Leigh". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2010-05-25.[dead link]
  6. ^ Michael Coveney, The world according to Mike Leigh, p.13
  7. ^ "What's Your Favorite Movie AL PACINO?". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  8. ^ The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made. The New York Times via Internet Archive. Published April 29, 2003. Retrieved June 12, 2008.

External links[edit]