The Man Who Planted Trees

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The Man Who Planted Trees Movie Poster Image
Ethereal, serious animated films with environmental themes.
  • NR
  • 2004
  • 315 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

In the title film, the message is that one determined person working alone can effect positive change in his environment that can benefit tens of thousands for decades to come. Throughout the collection: subtle messages about environmentalism and the benefits of nature. Characters overcome obstacles and great difficulty to acheive their goals.

Positive role models & representations

Elezard Bouffiet, the main character in the title film, is a humble man who achieves his goals through quiet and persistent dedication. His tasks are not easy, and there are many obstacles in his way, but he remains steadfast in his work and can imagine the long-term rewards that will result in his short-term suffering.

Violence

Brief images of warfare in which characters are killed by muskets. References to suicide, and the deaths of a character's loved ones.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

The narrator in The Man Who Planted Trees smokes from a pipe.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this collection of nine award-winning short films from acclaimed French-Canadian animator Frederic Back is a celebration of nature, and of mankind's relationship to the environment. There are brief scenes of violence, as much of the titular story is set during World Wars I and II, but the overall message of the power of one determined man to create tremendous positive change should be inspirational to children and parents alike.

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What's the story?

In The Man Who Planted Trees (narrated by Christopher Plummer) a young man on a walking journey through the Alps comes to a desolate land of sparse nature. Out of water, he meets a shepherd named Elezard Bouffiet who gives him his water. The young man stays with this shepherd for dinner, and observes how he quietly sorts acorns. He saves the good acorns, and the next day, the young man follows the shepherd as he plants acorns throughout the desolate land. The man has planted 100,000 oak trees, but expects fewer than 10,000 to actually grow in this harsh climate.

As Bouffiet continues planting trees, the young man fights in the first World War. He returns to the land Bouffiet has tended, and finds trees starting to grow. The narrator is inspired by Bouffiet's quiet humility and unwavering determination. He visits Bouffiet each year and marvels at the changes in the land Bouffiet's trees have brought to a once desolate land where only very mean villagers lived hardscrabble lives, and how decades later, this land has been transformed into a rustic paradise.

Is it any good?

This collection of nine short animated films is a celebration of the ethereal and exquisitely impressionistic work of animator Frederic Back. It includes the Oscar-winning The Man Who Planted Trees and the Oscar-nominated The Mighty River.

The title story, based on a story by French author Jean Giono, is a masterpiece of storytelling and animation, and similar themes of man's relationship to the land in which he lives is explored in the other films. Beautifully rendered, dreamlike and allegorical, The Man Who Planted Trees is a story for the ages.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the messages in these films. What do you think the filmmaker is trying to express? Did any of the films inspire you?

  • What are some examples, from history or from personally observed moments in your life, of when you've seen one person create positive changes in a community? Do we have an obligation to do things for the greater good?

Movie details

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