Released in Germany in over a year ago (in January 2020 as Das geheime Leben der Bäume), the documentary film The Hidden Life of Trees is finally making its way to the United States. (Talk about slow root growth!)
Based on the bestselling book by German forester and author Peter Wohlleben (The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate), this film is part travelogue, part classroom lecture and part cinematic journey through the German forests that Wohlleben studies. (And it turns out the German woods and not full of evil witches and wolves as the Brothers Grimm would have us believe.)
The “classroom” parts of the film are just as you might imagine: monotonous, sleep-inducing and, yes, wooden and stiff; but the cinematographic side of this movie is quite amazing and well worth the price of admission.
The slow-motion photography of seeds and acorns falling from trees and the time-lapse sequences of seedlings sprouting from the forest floor are amazing; as is the drone footage from on-high and the from-the-ground-up shots of the forest towering overhead. The cinematography by Jan Haft is incredible and also quite calming to observe.
The film covers Wohlleben’s theories of trees being sentient beings, having social lives and communication with each other, and the narrative really does take the viewer into their secret lives, proving that most of us truly “never see the forest for the trees.”
Another highlight of the film is Wohlleben’s journey to Sweden to see the oldest tree on earth, an ancient spruce tree, called Old Tjikko, with a 9,550 year old root system that has re-grown its trunk many times. It is absolutely mindboggling to consider the resilience of this living organism. Directed by Jörg Adolph (with the aforementioned cinematography by Jan Haft), The Hidden Life of Trees is a worthy film for those already interested in nature and natural life and will have you looking much closer at tree life the next time you are around it; that said the film is unlikely to convert anyone who looks to the forest as just a good place to go shoot their guns.
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