The film tells the story of Elzeard Bouffier, who over the course of more than 35 years has planted a magnificent forest in a desolate area of France. The story is told by a young traveler who accidentally meets the now old gentile one day. She sees him returning to his forest several times over the decades to observe the landscape.
The Oscar won for Krak! allowed Frédéric Back to fulfill his dream of adapting the beautiful story written by Jean Giono, The Man Who Planted Trees (L’homme qui plantait des arbres).
In a more distilled form, the ecological message and philosophy of life reflect the concerns already presented by Back in his other films. The seeds planted by the shepherd are the symbol of all our actions, good or bad, which have effects so branched and long that we can hardly imagine them. It is up to us to reason and act in accordance with our hopes for the future, and, if possible, to leave behind a world more beautiful and promising than the inherited one.
A humanist and environmental activist long before his time, the French writer Jean Giorno (1895-1970) drew inspiration from his own experience and the history of his home region to write The Man Who Planted Trees in 1973. Frédéric Back met Giorno’s story in Le sauvage magazine in 1974. By planting over 30,000 trees himself as a member of the Anti-Pollution Organization, he decided to bring to the screens a story hitherto known only to readers of specialized periodicals.
Turning Giorno’s story into a film, Back wanted her message to reach as large an audience as possible. During the course of his research, the filmmaker discovered people who were doing the same humble, continuous work in the real world, without means other than those of the shepherd in the story. The audience’s response to the film was much greater than Back could have imagined: millions of trees were planted on all continents.