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film review

The Hidden Life of Trees is in Vancouver theatres Aug. 27.

  • The Hidden Life of Trees
  • Directed by Jorg Adolph and Jan Haft
  • Written by Jorg Adolph
  • Classification G
  • Available in Vancouver theatres Aug. 27

Based on the 2015 book of the same title, The Hidden Life of Trees is a documentary both simple and startling. Simple, because it directly delivers the material in Peter Wohlleben’s bestseller, filming him giving lectures and leading nature walks or just recording a narrator reading his words. Startling, because the German forester’s ideas are a revelation. Wohlleben explains that trees are social beings who share food through their root systems, protect each other from insects and time their blossoming to agree on bumper years that will outstrip animals’ ability to eat all the seeds. While Jan Haft’s camera produces stunning aerial and close-up views of the trees, director Jorg Adolph follows Wohlleben’s ideas about preserving forests in a natural state.

Wohlleben is not opposed to all logging but points out that monoculture plantations are unhealthy, clear cutting destroys the potential of young trees and heavy machinery does irreversible damage by compacting the soil. Viewers should be aware that the film is an uncritical adaptation and does not deal with controversy over Wohlleben’s approach, which some biologists feel sentimentalizes the science.

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a critic’s pick designation across all coverage. (Television reviews, typically based on an incomplete season, are exempt.)