The politics of spectatorship in the Tree of Wooden Clogs

Ian Dwayne Pettigrew


This article reassesses the politics of Ermanno Olmi’s 1978 Palme d’Or winner, The Tree of Wooden Clogs. It specifically addresses charges made against the film by the novelist and critic, Alberto Moravia. The Marxist writer asserted that the film promotes the life and ideology of the farmers featured in the work. By looking closely at the film, I demonstrate how the formal strategies utilized by Olmi negate Moravia’s assessment and controvertibly position spectators to re-evaluate their political relationships to those in their range of influence.


Ermanno Olmi; Neo-Realism; Alberto Moravia; Political Cinema; and Viewer Responsibility

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Amédée Ayfre, “Neo-Realism and Phenomenology,” Cahiers du Cinéma: The 1950s: Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave, ed. Jim Hillier. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985), 188.

Mikhail Bahktin. Rabelais and His World, trans. Helene Iswolsky. (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press), 4.

Jonathan Keates, ‘In the Cascina,’ Sight and Sound 58 no.1 (1988): 27.

Alberto Moravia, ‘Ora basta, disse il cavallo’ L’espresso, Oct. 22nd 1978, 154 – 156.

Ermanno Olmi. Interview with Charles Thomas Samuels. Encountering Directors. (New York: Da Capo Press, 1987), 104.

Martin Walsh, ‘Ermanno Olmi: The Ethic of Individual Responsibility,’ Monogram 1 no.2 (1978), 25.



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