Like most people I love watching a good film or movie, in the cinema or at home. I have to admit a strange affliction however: I just cannot avoid spotting out-of-place trees in films and TV dramas. Try as I might, rows of ‘alien’ Sitka spruce of Douglas Fir which were introduced to Europe only in the last two hundred years or so, just shout out to me when appearing in the landscape of period dramas or Medieval action movies such as Robin Hood. I see red; my saturation in the fiction spoilt as I am jolted back to reality. My poor family.
I feel for the film maker, I really do. They already have to contend with vapour trails in the sky from jets, with tyre tracks or inappropriate architecture. It may be difficult to film in any modern woodland and to fool the expert forester eye, and perhaps it doesn’t matter in that most people will never notice.
On a more positive note this got me thinking about the tree in film. The films where trees take a starring role and that leave you richly rewarded.
The most recent example would be James Cameron’s epic eco-tale Avatar. The indigenous Na’vi on the moon Pandora, are invaded by resource-seeking humans in 2148 A.D. The message is unashamedly one of environmentalism. The trees in a rainforest take a central role, most especially one mother tree called the Hometree which allows the Na’vi to communicate with Eywa; their guiding force or deity. The film is a masterpiece; it’s no surprise that it is one of the biggest-grossing films ever made. It is not my favourite tree film though, much as I enjoyed its special effects. Perhaps the environmental message was a little too overt for me.
The man who planted trees (1988)
The story of Elezeard Bouffier, a fictional character and star of Jean Giono’s classic tale The man who planted trees, first published in 1954, is well-known and much-loved the world over.
Many people may not be aware however that a beautiful animated film was made, based on the book, by the amazing Frédéric Back. Lasting just 30 minutes you cannot help but be mesmorised by the wonderful animation and captivated by the story that is told. This film is widely thought of as a masterpiece.
Unfortunately the film is currently difficult/expensive to purchase, even online. However, visit a website dedicated to the animator and you can watch some video clips: www.FredericBack.com
Silent Running (1972)
A science fiction classic, that deserves much greater recognition, is Silent Running Directed by Douglas Trumbull in 1972. Trumbull was the special effects maestro behind 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). It tells the story of a future where all plant life on Earth is extinct, and an astronaut is given orders to destroy the last of Earth’s flora that has been preserved in a greenhouse onboard a spacecraft.
Crew member, Freeman Lowell, a ‘forest ranger’ of the future, becomes a renegade when he questions an order to destroy the forests preserved in the domes.
“Hey, wait a minute, wait a minute… I don’t think you guys understand what this means, please don’t blow up the domes.”
“… they are not replaceable!”
The special effects, which even though made over 30 years ago. are impressive. Together with the sound effects, music score and superb acting by the cast, in particular by Bruce Dern in the lead, a powerful sensory experience is created on film. Without wishing to spoil the movie, you can expect murder, tension, starring roles from three robots and a really imaginative film that will leave you pondering the meaning of life and our environmental responsibilities long after the credits have finished rolling.
DVDs of the film are easy to come by on many online stores, and the film is available remastered and on blueray.