Ermanno Olmi was an Italian film director, screenwriter, and producer who is considered one of the most important figures in Italian cinema.
He was known for his naturalistic style and his depictions of working-class life, and his films often focused on the struggles and joys of everyday people.
Olmi’s work often drew on his own experiences growing up in rural Lombardy, and many of his films focused on the lives of peasants and farmers.
His work was also characterized by a sense of quiet contemplation and a focus on small moments and details.
Some of Olmi’s most acclaimed films include “Il Posto” (1961), a coming-of-age story about a young man starting his first job in a large company; “The Tree of Wooden Clogs” (1978),
which depicts the daily lives of peasants in rural Lombardy; and “The Legend of the Holy Drinker” (1988), about a homeless man in Paris who receives an unexpected windfall.
Best Ermanno Olmi Films
Olmi’s films are known for their sensitivity, depth, and attention to detail.
They offer a glimpse into the lives of ordinary people and encourage viewers to reflect on the complexities of the human experience.
1. The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978)
The Tree of Wooden Clogs” is a 1978 Italian film directed by Ermanno Olmi.
The film depicts the life of four farming families in a rural community in the late 19th century and is known for its vivid depiction of the daily life and struggles of peasant farmers.
One reason to watch “The Tree of Wooden Clogs” is its beautiful and immersive cinematography. The film features gorgeous shots of the Italian countryside, and the attention to detail in the period set design and costumes transports the viewer back in time.
Another reason to watch “The Tree of Wooden Clogs” is its powerful and moving portrayal of the lives of the peasant farmers. The film explores the hardships and injustices faced by these individuals, while also highlighting the beauty and simplicity of their way of life.
Finally, “The Tree of Wooden Clogs” is a masterpiece of Italian neorealism, a film movement known for its emphasis on realism and social issues. The film’s naturalistic style and use of non-professional actors add to its authenticity and power.
Overall, “The Tree of Wooden Clogs” is a timeless masterpiece that offers a window into a bygone era while also exploring universal themes of struggle, resilience, and community.
Its stunning cinematography, moving portrayal of the lives of peasant farmers, and masterful use of neorealism make it a must-watch for anyone interested in Italian cinema or socially conscious filmmaking.
2. Il posto (1961)
“Il posto” is a 1961 Italian drama film directed by Ermanno Olmi. The film follows the story of a young man named Domenico (played by Sandro Panseri) who travels to Milan in search of a job.
After a series of interviews, he is hired as a clerk in a large corporation, and the film explores his experiences as he navigates the bureaucratic and hierarchical world of the workplace.
The film is notable for its naturalistic style, and for its compassionate and nuanced portrayal of its characters.
Through Domenico’s story, the film offers a poignant and insightful commentary on the nature of work, the challenges of social mobility, and the complexities of modern life.
The film also explores themes of youth, identity, and the search for meaning in a rapidly changing world.
“Il posto” is widely regarded as a classic of Italian neorealism, and is notable for its powerful and understated performances, as well as its beautiful black-and-white cinematography.
The film is a sensitive and empathetic exploration of the human experience, and remains a compelling and relevant work more than sixty years after its release.
3. I Fidanzati (1963)
“I Fidanzati” is a 1963 Italian drama film directed by Ermanno Olmi. The film follows the story of a young man named Giovanni (played by Carlo Cabrini) who leaves his hometown in southern Italy to work in a factory in the north.
While he is away, he becomes engaged to his childhood sweetheart, but as the wedding approaches, he begins to question whether he truly wants to settle down.
The film is notable for its minimalist style and its poetic realism. Olmi uses long takes and naturalistic performances to create a sense of intimacy with the characters and the world they inhabit.
The film also features stunning cinematography by Lamberto Caimi, which captures the beauty of the Italian landscape and the industrial north.
“I Fidanzati” has been praised for its sensitive portrayal of the struggles of working-class people and its exploration of the tension between tradition and modernity.
The film is widely regarded as one of Olmi’s masterpieces and is considered an important work of Italian neorealism.
4. Time Stood Still (1959)
“Time Stood Still” (also known as “The Big Risk”) is a 1959 French-Italian drama film directed by Claude Sautet, and stars Lino Ventura, Jean-Paul Belmondo, and Sandra Milo.
The film tells the story of two friends, Michel and Gérard, who are both involved in a daring heist to rob a wealthy businessman’s safe.
As they plan the heist and carry it out, their friendship is put to the test, and they must confront the moral implications of their actions.
“Time Stood Still” is a well-crafted crime drama that explores complex moral and ethical issues. The film’s cast delivers strong performances, and Sautet’s direction is precise and effective, building tension and suspense as the plot unfolds.
The film also features some beautiful location photography, capturing the atmosphere of 1950s Paris.
Overall, “Time Stood Still” is a gripping and thought-provoking film that offers a nuanced look at the human consequences of crime and the struggle to reconcile personal ethics with the pressures of life.
It is a great example of the quality and depth of French cinema of the time.
5. The Legend of the Holy Drinker (1988)
“The Legend of the Holy Drinker” is a 1988 film directed by Italian filmmaker Ermanno Olmi, based on the novel by Joseph Roth.
The film tells the story of Andreas, a homeless man in Paris who receives 200 francs from a stranger and resolves to repay the debt by returning the money to a church.
However, Andreas struggles with alcoholism and finds it difficult to hold onto the money.
The film explores themes of redemption, faith, and the struggles of the marginalized in society.
The lead role is played by Rutger Hauer, who delivers a memorable performance as the tormented Andreas. The film also features beautiful cinematography and a haunting musical score by Giuseppe Tornatore.
Overall, “The Legend of the Holy Drinker” is a moving and thought-provoking film that offers a compassionate look at the struggles of those who have been cast aside by society.
The film has been praised for its realism and humanity, as well as its powerful performances and masterful direction.
6. And There Came a Man (1965)
“And There Came a Man” (1965) is an Italian drama film directed by Ermanno Olmi. The film follows the story of a man named Giovanni (played by Sergio Graziani), who becomes a farmer and struggles to make a living for himself and his family.
The film is characterized by Olmi’s naturalistic style and his focus on the lives of working-class people.
Olmi often employed non-professional actors in his films to achieve a greater sense of realism, and “And There Came a Man” is no exception.
The film also explores themes of family, love, and sacrifice. Giovanni’s struggles to provide for his family and create a better life for them are at the heart of the film.
and the choices he makes and the sacrifices he endures are both poignant and thought-provoking.
Overall, “And There Came a Man” is a powerful and moving film that showcases Olmi’s skill at depicting the everyday struggles of ordinary people.
Its themes of family and sacrifice resonate with viewers, and its naturalistic style gives the film a sense of authenticity and depth.
7. The Crush (1967)
“The Crush” is a 1967 British film directed by Michael Winner, starring Susan George and Christopher Sandford.
The film tells the story of a teenage girl who becomes infatuated with an older man, leading to a dangerous and obsessive relationship.
One reason to watch “The Crush” is its compelling and disturbing exploration of the consequences of obsessive love.
The film’s depiction of the main character’s descent into madness is both unsettling and fascinating, and provides a powerful commentary on the nature of love and obsession.
Another reason to watch “The Crush” is the standout performance by Susan George, who brings a nuanced and complex portrayal to the role of the young girl.
Her performance captures the character’s emotional turmoil and obsession with a convincing and disturbing intensity.
Finally, “The Crush” is a prime example of British psychological thrillers from the 1960s, a genre known for its suspenseful and dark exploration of human nature.
The film’s use of tension, atmosphere, and visual style create a haunting and memorable viewing experience.
Overall, “The Crush” is a gripping and psychologically nuanced thriller that explores the dangerous consequences of obsessive love.
Its standout performance by Susan George, its suspenseful atmosphere, and its place within the tradition of British psychological thrillers make it a must-watch for fans of the genre.
8. The Scavengers (1970)
“The Scavengers” is a 1970 Western film directed by Lee Frost. The film stars John Garwood as Jeff, a man who is falsely accused of a crime and forced to go on the run.
He meets up with a group of misfits and outcasts, including a gunslinger named Lee (played by Michael Pataki) and a former prostitute named Linda (played by Susan McIver), and together they try to clear Jeff’s name and escape the law.
The film is notable for its gritty and violent style, and for its portrayal of a lawless and chaotic world. It explores themes of justice, revenge, and the struggle for survival, and offers a dark and unflinching portrait of life on the fringes of society.
The film is also notable for its use of non-traditional Western tropes, including a significant emphasis on sex and nudity, which was relatively uncommon in the genre at the time.
“The Scavengers” is a product of its time and is regarded by some as a cult classic, but it is not widely regarded as a particularly important or groundbreaking work.
Nevertheless, the film’s unique blend of sex and violence, combined with its unconventional take on the Western genre, make it an interesting and engaging work for fans of the genre.
9. Keep Walking (1983)
“Keep Walking” is a 1983 Iranian drama film directed by Ebrahim Golestan. The film follows a young boy named Hossein who lives with his impoverished family in a small village in Iran.
After his father becomes ill, Hossein takes on the responsibility of caring for his family and working in the fields to earn money.
The film is notable for its realistic portrayal of rural life in Iran and its subtle commentary on social and economic inequality.
Golestan uses a simple, unadorned style of storytelling, and the film is shot in a naturalistic, documentary-like fashion that captures the rhythms of everyday life.
“Keep Walking” has been praised for its sensitivity and its unflinching depiction of the struggles faced by rural communities in Iran.
The film is widely regarded as one of Golestan’s most accomplished works and is considered an important work of Iranian cinema.
10. The Secret of the Old Woods (1993)
“The Secret of the Old Woods” (also known as “Le secret des bois”) is a 1993 French drama film directed by Maurice Pialat, and stars Sandrine Bonnaire, Maurice Pialat, and Michel Piccoli.
The film follows the story of an emotionally troubled young girl named Sabine, who is sent to live with her grandparents in the countryside after a failed suicide attempt.
As she struggles to adjust to her new environment, Sabine becomes fascinated by a nearby forest, and begins to uncover a dark secret that has been hidden for years.
“The Secret of the Old Woods” is a poignant and atmospheric film that explores themes of trauma, mental illness, and the search for personal identity.
Pialat’s direction is delicate and understated, and he brings a palpable sense of mystery and unease to the film’s naturalistic setting.
The performances are also strong, particularly Bonnaire’s affecting portrayal of Sabine’s emotional turmoil.
Overall, “The Secret of the Old Woods” is a moving and thought-provoking film that offers a nuanced portrayal of the complexities of human experience. It is a great example of Pialat’s skill as a director, and a powerful example of the best of French cinema.
11. Long Live the Lady! (1987)
“Long Live the Lady!” (original title: “Vive la sociale!”) is a 1987 French comedy-drama film directed by Gérard Mordillat.
The film tells the story of a group of factory workers who decide to take control of their factory and run it themselves when the owner threatens to shut it down. The workers elect a woman named Louise (played by Jane Birkin) as their leader, and together they fight to save their jobs and their way of life.
The film explores themes of class struggle, feminism, and worker solidarity. It is a tribute to the resilience and ingenuity of working people, and a celebration of the power of collective action.
The performances in the film are strong, with Birkin delivering a particularly memorable turn as the charismatic and determined Louise.
Overall, “Long Live the Lady!” is a well-crafted and entertaining film that offers a message of hope and empowerment.
It is a testament to the importance of standing together in the face of adversity, and a reminder of the potential for positive change when people come together to fight for what they believe in.
12. The Profession of Arms (2001)
“The Profession of Arms” (2001) is an Italian historical drama film directed by Ermanno Olmi.
The film is set during the War of the Spanish Succession and tells the story of an aging captain named Andreas (played by Christo Jivkov) who is leading a group of soldiers through the Italian countryside.
The film is characterized by Olmi’s attention to historical detail and his focus on the lives of ordinary people caught up in the midst of war.
Olmi’s naturalistic style is on full display in the film, and the characters and settings are rendered with a sense of authenticity and depth.
In addition to its historical themes, “The Profession of Arms” explores timeless questions about the nature of war and the human experience.
The characters in the film grapple with the violence and destruction of war, and the toll it takes on both the body and the spirit.
Overall, “The Profession of Arms” is a powerful and thought-provoking film that showcases Olmi’s talent for exploring complex themes with sensitivity and depth.
Its depiction of war and its effects on ordinary people is both haunting and memorable, and its historical setting adds an additional layer of richness and depth to the story.
13. Genesis: The Creation and the Flood (1994)
“Genesis: The Creation and the Flood” is a 1994 Italian film directed by Ermanno Olmi. It is an adaptation of the biblical story of creation and the flood, as described in the Book of Genesis.
One reason to watch “Genesis: The Creation and the Flood” is its stunning visual imagery.
The film uses a combination of live-action and special effects to create a vivid and immersive depiction of the biblical story, capturing the majesty and power of the natural world and the divine forces at work.
Another reason to watch this film is its respectful and thoughtful treatment of the biblical text.
Olmi’s direction and screenplay take the story seriously, striving to convey its spiritual and philosophical themes while avoiding any heavy-handed moralizing or literal interpretation.
Finally, “Genesis: The Creation and the Flood” is an example of the long tradition of biblical epics in cinema, a genre that has explored the stories of the Bible with varying degrees of success.
Olmi’s film is a unique and worthwhile contribution to this tradition, bringing a distinctive visual and artistic approach to the story that sets it apart from other adaptations.
Overall, “Genesis: The Creation and the Flood” is a visually stunning and respectful adaptation of the biblical story of creation and the flood.
Its breathtaking imagery, thoughtful treatment of the text, and contribution to the biblical epic genre make it a film worth watching for both spiritual and artistic reasons.
14. Singing Behind Screens (2003)
“Singing Behind Screens” is a 2003 Chinese drama film directed by Ermanno Olmi.
The film tells the story of an opera singer named Laizi (played by Yang Lixin) who becomes embroiled in a love triangle with his colleague Xiao Ma (played by Jiang Wenli) and a wealthy businessman named Hongyu (played by Wu Jun).
The film explores themes of love, desire, and the tensions between tradition and modernity in contemporary China.
It is notable for its lush and atmospheric cinematography, which captures the vibrant colors and textures of Chinese culture, as well as its sensitive and nuanced portrayal of its characters.
While the film did not receive wide distribution outside of China, it was critically acclaimed in its home country, and is regarded as a significant work in the history of Chinese cinema.
Its blend of traditional Chinese operatic elements with contemporary storytelling techniques, as well as its exploration of complex emotional themes, make it a compelling and thought-provoking work for audiences interested in world cinema.
15. Greenery Will Bloom Again (2014)
“Greenery Will Bloom Again” (original title: “Torneranno i prati”) is a 2014 Italian war drama film directed by Ermanno Olmi.
The film tells the story of a group of Italian soldiers who are sent to the front lines during World War I.
As they face the brutality of war, they struggle to maintain their humanity and their sense of purpose.
The film is notable for its realistic and unsentimental portrayal of war, as well as its stunning cinematography and attention to detail.
Olmi uses long takes and wide shots to create a sense of the vastness of the war landscape and to convey the experience of being a small, insignificant figure caught up in a larger, impersonal conflict.
“Greenery Will Bloom Again” has been praised for its compassionate portrayal of the soldiers and its sensitive exploration of the toll that war takes on individuals and communities.
The film is widely regarded as one of Olmi’s most accomplished works and is considered an important work of Italian cinema.
3 Characteristics of Ermanno Olmi Films
Ermanno Olmi was an Italian film director known for his poetic, neorealist style of filmmaking. Here are three characteristics that are often seen in his films:
Naturalistic settings: Olmi’s films often focus on the lives of working-class people, and he frequently sets his stories in naturalistic, rural landscapes. He often uses non-professional actors to add a sense of authenticity to his films.
Attention to detail: Olmi was known for his meticulous attention to detail, both in his cinematography and in the development of his characters. He often uses long takes and static camera shots to capture the nuances of his characters’ emotions.
Humanistic themes: Olmi’s films explore the human experience in all its complexity, and often focus on themes of love, faith, and social justice.
He is known for his compassion and empathy for his characters, and his films often have a profound emotional impact on viewers.
3 Reasons Why You Should Watch Ermanno Olmi Films
Here are three reasons why you should watch Ermanno Olmi films:
Social Realism: Ermanno Olmi was a master of social realism, a genre of filmmaking that aims to portray the lives of ordinary people in a realistic and empathetic way.
His films offer a window into the struggles and joys of working-class people in Italy, and are renowned for their authenticity and humanity.
Poetic Sensibility: Despite their realist approach, Olmi’s films are also marked by a poetic sensibility that infuses his work with a sense of wonder and beauty.
His films are often visually stunning and explore the human condition with a rare sensitivity and insight.
Philosophical Depth: Olmi’s films are not just about telling a good story or presenting a slice of life; they also grapple with deep philosophical questions about the nature of existence, the meaning of life, and the role of society in shaping individual destiny.
His films invite viewers to reflect on these timeless questions and engage with them in a profound and meaningful way.
Best Ermanno Olmi Films – Wrapping Up
Ermanno Olmi was a highly respected filmmaker who made many notable films throughout his career. Here are some of his best films that are worth watching:
“Il Posto” (1961) – Olmi’s first feature film, “Il Posto,” is a poignant and insightful look at the lives of young people in postwar Italy.
“The Tree of Wooden Clogs” (1978) – This film won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and is widely considered to be Olmi’s masterpiece. It is a deeply moving and evocative portrait of peasant life in 19th-century Lombardy.
“The Legend of the Holy Drinker” (1988) – This film tells the story of a homeless man in Paris who is given a sum of money by a stranger and spends it on alcohol. It is a haunting and powerful exploration of poverty, addiction, and redemption.
“Walking, Walking” (1983) – This film follows the journey of a man and his son as they walk across the Italian countryside in search of work. It is a beautiful and lyrical meditation on the relationship between man and nature.
“One Hundred Nails” (2007) – Olmi’s final film is a contemplative and poetic exploration of the life of Jesus, told through a series of vignettes set in contemporary Italy.
These films showcase Olmi’s masterful ability to capture the beauty and complexity of everyday life, and his deep compassion for the struggles and joys of ordinary people.
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