The Tree of Wooden Clogs

The Tree of Wooden Clogs

Original film poster
Directed by Ermanno Olmi
Written by Ermanno Olim
Starring Luigi Ornaghi
Francesca Moriggi
Omar Brignoli
Release dates
September 21, 1978 (Italy)
June 1, 1979 (U.S.)
Running time
186 mins
Country Italy
Language Bergamasque

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 Bergamasque, an Eastern Lombard dialect.



Four peasant families working farms for the same landlord scrape out a meager existence in 1898 in the countryside around Bergamo. Over the course of a year, children are born, crops are planted, animals are slaughtered, couples are married, stories and prayers are exchanged in the families's shared farmhouse. Undercurrents of revolution are seen by the peasants but largely ignored, as a communist rabble-rouser gives a speech at a local fair and when a newlywed couple visit the big city of Milan and witness the arrest of political prisoners. When spring comes, one of the four families cut some branches from a tree to make wooden clogs so that their son can walk to school, but the landowner discovers this and the family is forced off their land by the incensed landlord, and the remaining families watch them go, praying for them and recognizing their own fragile existence.


Production notes

The movie includes real footage of a goose and pig being killed.

Critical acclaim

British film-maker 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”.[2] 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?" [3] When Al Pacino was asked by the AFI what his favourite movie was, he admitted that he "always liked The Tree Of Wooden Clogs."[4]


  1. "Festival de Cannes: The Tree of Wooden Clogs". Retrieved 2009-05-20.
  2. Monahan, Mark (2002-10-19). "Film makers on film: Mike Leigh". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2010-05-25.
  3. Michael Coveney, The world according to Mike Leigh, p.13
  4. "What's Your Favorite Movie AL PACINO?". Retrieved 23 August 2011.
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