Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Man Who Planted Trees (Back, 1987)

Frédéric Back’s The Man Who Planted Trees lives up to its billing as a great environmentalist picture. The animation is very much like an artist’s sketchbook come to life. And I mean that as a compliment. With images that make suggestions at an idea, yet never seem set in stone, Back provides a look to his film that supports the underlying message that he is trying to convey. The film is a response to the notion that progress marches on and there is nothing that can be done to keep the earth beautiful and hospitable. Back’s visions are in a constant state of motion, begging to be nudged in another direction. There always seemed to me to be a portion of the image unfinished, as if continually reminding us about a future yet to be shaped. The story is of one modest man whose determination brings about an enormous change for people who are not even aware of their benefactor. The man asks for no award or recognition. It is enough for him simply to give life. Christopher Plummer’s narration does seem to lack variety after a while, but this is a minor complaint considering it is in the service of a film that seems entirely capable of opening up your world to new hopes and possibilities. The relative obscurity of this short film is a shame, as it is a work that really should be seen by everyone.


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