Director: Jonas Selberg Augustsén
Sweden, 2008, 76 minutes
Friday May 29 | 7:00PM | Pacific Cinémathèque
In a remote corner of northern Sweden, a trio of young men decide to build a treehouse. Not just any treehouse, but a symbol of a lost Eden, a physical embodiment of the missing connection between people and the natural world. With little more than a few architectural drawings, a tiny maquette, and a whole lot of gumption, Jonas (director), Andreas (sound), and Anders (camera) embark on a journey of personal and cultural discovery. Its very easy to say I want to build a tree house, but the reality of doing it is something else entirely. Jonas discovers this as he is suspended more than fourteen metres in the air, desperately trying to hammer nails into a tin roof. This is so scary, I could cry, he says. But the constant threat of plummeting to ones death, mosquito hell, and the local police are the very least of their problems. While Jonas agonizes that their project is too male (the only female on site is Maya, Jonass long-suffering dog), and that no one really understands or cares about the underlying gravity of the project, the hard work of hammering, sawing and building must continue. The all-too brief Swedish summer is hurrying to a close, and the tree house is unfinished.
The Tree Lover is filled with dry humour and a wonderful quixotic spirit that recalls the very best of Thoreau or his Swedish equivalent Eyvind Jonsson (who almost starved to death in a remote cabin in the woods). With a little help from a cultural theorist, a theologian, and a biologist, who collectively explicate the critical place that trees have long occupied in human history, the filmmakers craft a beautifully constructed exploration of the human need for connection and home. Even if that home is in a tree. As Martin Lönnebo, a bishop emeritus explains, the tree is a central image in almost all human mythology and religion. The further away we get from the forest, he says, the more we miss it, until we forget what it was that we were missing in the first place. In an increasingly secularized and rootless age, where urban ease has largely replaced real (hard) work, the act of physically building something proves a revelation. The significance of the latin phrase hic locus santcus est meaning this is the place becomes clear as water when the final product is finally unveiled.