Scen., F., M.: Ermanno Olmi. Scgf.: Enrico Tovaglieri. Int.: Luigi Ornaghi (Batistì), Omar Brignoli (Minek), Francesca Moriggi (Batistina), Teresa Brescianini (vedova Runk), Carmelo Silva (don Carlo), Giuseppe Brignoli (nonno Anselmo), Antonio Ferrari (Tunì), Pierangelo Bertoli (Secondo), Lucia Pezzoli (Maddalena), Franco Pilenga (Stefano), Mario Brignoli (il padrone). Prod.: G.P.C. (Gruppo Produzione Cinema), RAI, Italnoleggio Cinematografico. DCP. D.: 186’. Col.
The resurrection of peasant civilisation in three acts. Cannes 1976, out of competition: Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900, an English-language epic on agrarian Fascism in Emilia. Cannes 1977, Palme d’Or: Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s padre padrone, a contemporary parable about Sardinian shepherds, in Sardinian dialect. Cannes 1978, Palme d’Or: Ermanno Olmi’s L’albero degli zoccoli, a fresco on Bergamo’s sharecroppers at the end of the 19th century, in local dialect. Both Olmi’s and the Taviani’s films were the result of an innovative production strategy implemented by state television, Rai. According to the illustrious critic Morando Morandini, L’albero degli zoccoli “is the greatest Italian film of the Seventies and perhaps the only one to contain Virgil’s great themes of labor, pietas and fatum”. Despite the fact that the Cannes jury headed by Alan J. Pakula unanimously awarded it the top prize (as juror Michel Ciment later confirmed), Olmi’s masterpiece provoked polemic and divided opinion. For example, Alberto Moravia asked “Why did Olmi make an animal [the horse] the only rational, that is to say rebellious, character in the film? For the good and subconscious reason that, in a situation blocked by counter-reformist Catholicism such as the one depicted in L’albero degli zoccoli, only animals can be sufficiently rational to rebel”. Olmi explains: “Back then, the boss was a boss in every sense of the word. My grandmother told me about the episode of the theft of the tree, which took place precisely in the farmstead where she grew up, in Treviglio. These were all stories that I had heard from my grandmother, or from people who participated in the filò [group work which took place in the evenings]: conversations which took place in the stables or under the porch, stories in which everyone had to find their own moral and thus elaborate their own culture”. Respecting his family’s memories to the letter whilst drawing on the emotions evoked by his youthful reading of Alessandro Manzoni’s I promessi sposi, Olmi recreated in minute detail both the interior and exterior of a universe that no longer existed. The extraordinary work of this one-man band, who checked lighting, costumes, intonation, sound, camera, natural settings, and all the rest, was documented day-by-day on-set by his assistant, Lella Lugli, in a multi-layered script-bible.