The Day A Tree Fell review: A puzzling work of naturalism
Rony Patra -
What is the story about?
A tree gets cut. Due to this, a worm loses its home and goes in search of another place to inhabit.
Globally renowned as one of the most important practitioners of experimental cinema, Amit Dutta's films constantly defy description. They tend to have a naturalistic feel to them, with minimal drama. You are never sure whether you are watching a piece of fiction or non-fiction. Not many people in India are familiar with his work, but Mubi has decided to correct that by organizing a retrospective of his works titled “The Inimitable Image”.
This film, however, is something even I’d fail to describe. Intended as a tribute to the father of American experimental cinema, Jonas Mekas, this film borrows liberally from Mekas' whimsical style to showcase the life-and-death cycle of nature and the passage of time. A worm is positioned at the centre of the narrative, and Dutta tries to showcase its resilience by constantly framing its movement against the change in surroundings. However, even at a running time of five minutes, this film feels long.
Music & Other Departments
Since the director shoots and edits his own films, you can rest assured about the presence of a singular creative vision. However, because of the experimental nature of the film, you cannot empathise with either the worm or its surroundings after a point.
There's also the issue of the editing in the first couple of minutes, where quick smash cuts between the felling of the tree, the road and a short freestyle Hindi poem make your head spin.
If you really pay attention, Dutta's film utilizes the sounds of nature to create the background for the passage of time, without any background score whatsoever. It almost feels like a five-minute David Attenborough nature film.
The smash cuts at the beginning and the experimental nature of this short are the biggest drawbacks of this film.
Did I enjoy it?
I appreciated it as a purely academic work. However, if you are used to watching compact narratives in short films (like me), you might end up feeling shortchanged.
Do I recommend it?
I’ll only recommend this film for lovers of experimental, avant-garde cinema. Others may be left scratching their heads.