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The Tree
Directed by Julie Bertucelli
Australia, 2010
Cornerhouse, 13 August 2011

The Tree

There is an elegy which Rilke addresses to a fig tree, I seem to remember, and Charlotte Gainsbourg’s performance as Dawn, a wife recently widowed, has something of the power of that poem.

The film sounds absurd when you try to summarise it, but here goes anyway: Dawn’s daughter Simone, played by a startlingly mature Morgana Davies, believes that her father’s soul is present in the fig tree in their garden; and Dawn herself becomes halfway convinced of it.  As Dawn attempts to renew and revitalize her life, the tree responds with distress and anger, or seems to.  The pathetic fallacy writ large.

It sounds fanciful and mystical, but the film is actually anything but that; it’s a contemporary Australian film through and through.  What is most admirable about it is how the emotions and perceptions of a child, Simone aged 8, are given equal weight and respect.  In the face of death, there is no one sensible ‘adult’ way of coping.  We are all helpless children without answers.

A fine film.

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