Walking Into Green Velvet

Hidden Life of Trees
Stars: Peter Wohlleben, Achim Bogdahn, Markus Lanz, Miriam Wohlleben, Corina Wohlleben and Selma Usuk
Directors: Jorg Adolph and Jan Haft
Scriptwriters: Jorg Adolph and Peter Wohlleben from his book, “The Hidden Life of Trees”
Composer: Franziska Henke
Cinematography: Daniel Schonauer
Rating: G for families and students
Running Length: 100 minutes
English language and German language with subtitles 

So, you thought all you had to do was plant a tree---any tree---in your back yard and you would have shade, a branch to put a swing on and that’s all it takes.  Think again.  You will have a living being in your back yard and it is communicating with other trees in the area and they have their own private “grape vine.”  Peter Wohlleben wrote the popular “The Hidden Life of Trees” in 2015, and explains, in detail, about what constitutes a forest and why preserving them is vital to the planet. Photography is marvelous and some in slow motion as in showing the maturation of seeds into baby trees. The trees and consequently, forests, take care of themselves well, and have been for ages and ages and ages. 

Peter Wohlleben conducts seminars, lectures and is a television guest on the subject of trees and the environment. What brought the topic of trees and de-forestation to the forefront, was when Wohlleben was working as a German Forester and began to be against cutting down large amounts of trees in order to replant with new trees of a different species.  As we see, in twenty years, there are trees there, but not doing that well and just there for the cutting and then back to replanting again.  Nothing permanent or lasting or, actually, beautiful.  Using lectures and graphics, Peter Wohlleben shows how trees become close to each other through their canopies and root systems, take care of seedlings/baby trees while they mature and spread over large portions of land.  They are alive and eager to grow. Somehow, trees can use fungi as a sort of communication system like their own Internet.  This, of course, takes many years, centuries, and beyond to fulfill, but they have time.  Or should I write, had time, before man decided he needed to start chopping for fires, homes, etc. This was the invasion of one species by another, aggressive and determined.  So, now the work begins to save what the Earth had before, so that eons from now, it won’t be bare soil.

We get to see the oldest tree in the world, “Old Tjikko,” 10,000 years old and standing by itself in a field in Sweden. Think of what this fellow has seen, from the Ice Age to Vikings and wars. We also get to see a “tree feller” which is a machine out of science fiction that takes the trees down, efficiently. However, it is taking down a living thing, too. 

What you don’t see here, are words from lumber people, but then, this isn’t really their film, it is about what they do, and what Wohlleben wants to preserve---forest life. Who hasn’t enjoyed a walk in the forest and those Redwoods on the California coast must be full of tree facts about what has happened in their forest.  Walking into a pine forest in northern Minnesota is like walking into green velvet.  You can almost hear the hum of activity within and you are the outsider. 

You will come away from this film with a new way to view trees and forests. They feel pain from cuts and insects. They can heal themselves over time and some species have a peculiar odor to protect themselves from burrowing insects. When walking a Nature Trail now, slow down and really see what is around you and just who is watching who. 

“The Hidden Life of Trees” is an enticing book to read and a beautifully done film to see for families or for classroom students. Peter Wohlleben’s latest book, “The Heartbeat of Trees” is available in bookstores June 2021. 


Copyright 2021 Marie Asner