Director, Julie Bertuccelli, and Director of Photography, Nigel Bluck.photograph by Baruch Rafic
About a man who turned into a
Italo Calvino’s Baron in the Trees has long been my “roman fétiche”. I was very disappointed to find out that the rights to the book will never be available. As I was still dreaming of a tree story, a friend gave me Judy Pascoe’s book
Our Father Who Art in the Tree as a present. The central figure of the tree in the story sparked off my desire, but I soon discovered that its themes strongly inspired me, not just to keep reading but to the point of imagining my second film…
It is the story of a woman whose
husband suddenly dies, and of one of her four children, young
Simone, who talks to her deceased father in the tree at the back of
Thus the film tells of childhood and the strength of imagination, of invention as a means to survive and the unstoppable power of life asserting itself over sadness. One child, one woman slowly regaining her grip on life, a fantasized phantom, a tree which seems to be animated, in the midst of a fierce wilderness which can be seen as magical and making social conventions burst at the seams.
It reflects on mourning, parting,
“roots”, femininity, ambiguity, the complexity and richness of
family bonds. Mother and daughter experience, each in her own way,
how they can keep talking to – hence metaphorically keep living
with – the one who is no longer around, how he still lives within
themselves. He is a force, vivid and bright, but furthermore, an
ability to do, to move forward. The deceased beloved is a space to
be tamed. As Simone builds a tree cabin, she’s trying to inhabit
her father’s mind and imagine as if it was a house. The other is
experienced as an inhabitable space.
The film therefore uses the primeval power of beings and elements, and Nature as a mirror of feelings. But it also deals with the limit there is to the interpretation of Nature’s “gestures”. Hence it is difficult to find the right balance between natural phenomena, which border on the extraordinary, but always remain believable, and the way they are experienced, interpreted and dealt with by the family.
This is why shooting in Australia, where Nature and its excesses are central and stunning, seems momentous. As a French director looking at this country from a distance, I find several advantages to setting this story in the Antipodes (as is the case in the book), in this scenery far away from France, from home, from me. The southern hemisphere, the opposite side of the world, different culture, vegetation, climate, habitat, so many differences which enrich the tale and highlight its universality. The process of mourning is akin to going into exile, to tearing one’s self away from the other, from a part of one’s self. It is a journey one must undertake to willingly part from the other while keeping him within, as an exile trying to maintain internal contact with his or her roots. Therefore I found it was important to me to go and tell this story far away from home. As far as possible. On the other side of the world.
Click on the links below for more from the Director’s Notebook…