The Secret of Old Woods | Chicago Reader

The Secret of Old Woods

Italian director Ermanno Olmi began as an heir to the neorealists, but this 1993 ecological fable, adapted from a novel by Milanese writer Dino Buzzati, is steeped in magical realism. A retired colonel (Paolo Villaggio) inherits the estate of his brother, who's eulogized by the neighboring villagers for preserving an old forest, and when the colonel decides to chop down its tall trees, he hears the pleas of tree spirits and forest fauna. Dante Spinotti's glowing camerawork conveys the continuum between nature and civilization, past and present, as the gruff and regimented loner is gradually humanized by his frail nephew, the simple townsfolk, and the enchanting forest creatures. Olmi's message is clear, but it never overwhelms the affecting autumnal melancholy. In Italian with subtitles. 134 min.

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