Ermanno Olmi on the Whisper of the Generations

In his Palme d’Or–winning masterpiece The Tree of Wooden Clogs, Ermanno Olmi depicts both the hardship and the beauty of late nineteenth-century agrarian life in the Italian province of Bergamo, telling the story of four families that live and work on an estate controlled by an exploitative landowner. Inspired by Olmi’s own experience of moving away from the hustle and bustle of Milan to the tranquility of the Dolomite foothills, the film pays homage to a disappearing peasant world, one that Olmi was familiar with from the stories his grandmother told him as a child. In this excerpt from Ermanno Olmi: The Roots of the Tree, a 1981 episode of the British television program The Southbank Show featured on our new edition of the film, Olmi explains how a “whisper of the generations” connects us to a deeper awareness of human experience.

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