Bitter Harvest (2001)

July 20, 2008 § Leave a comment

One of those small, important films, Bitter Harvest (originally released as How Harry Became a Tree) is an impressive modern fable about the perils of hanging on to hostility.  It stars Colm Meaney — best known as O’Brien on some of the Star Trek shows, but an actor with an impressive CV — as a local farmer in a small Irish town in the twenties who declares a popular pub owner his enemy, and swears to do all he can to bring him down.  After all, “a man is judged by his enemies.”  Cillian Murphy plays his son, unsure about his loyalties, handsome but also “not the brightest candle on the Christmas tree.”

Yugoslavian director Goran Paskaljevic keeps things fairly subtle until the end, but the dark humour and strangely fascinating moments — particularly the final, strangely beautiful moments of the film — are certainly underrated, and certainly not to be missed.  It’s unlikely this film will ever get a lot of attention, but I’d certainly like to see it happen. And, despite the simplicity of the original title, I think How Harry Became a Tree suits the peculiar qualities of a modern fable much better.

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