How Harry Became a Tree FILM review (Bitter Harvest)

Film / Video Reviews
How Harry Became a Tree FILM review (Bitter Harvest)
May 31, 2005, 14:40

HOW HARRY BECAME A TREE directed by Goran Paskaljevic; Paradox Pictures, Ireland, 2001

Most people couldn't relate to Harry.

The lead character in Goran Paskaljevic's fable How Harry Became a Tree is nasty, loathsome, and mean-spirited. He drives people away. He even has dreams that he's a tree—a hardened object that doesn't need anything save the cold, muddy earth to survive.

A Chinese fable set in Ireland in 1924, it focuses on, yes, Harry (Colm Meaney), a cabbage farmer who determines that hate is the prevailing force in the world. Accordingly, he attempts to elevate his lot by setting out to destroy the most powerful man in town, an innkeeper named George (Adrian Dunbar).

Harry is no match: He lacks the finances, brains, and allies to bring down his foe. But he has the will, which drives him to more radical and irrational measures—from trumpeting a scandalous affair to arranging a suicide and a murder.

Pathetic, yes. But what's touching about How Harry Became a Tree is that by the end of the film any honest person will start to feel pity for, and even relate to Harry.

Played cunningly by Meaney, Harry explores the bitter streak in all of us, mixing looks of sullen despair and jutting determination on his Robert De Niro-like face. Paskaljevic is as cunning. Rather than condemn Harry, the Yugoslav director allows Meaney to transform the contemptible into the pitiful.

Scenes are set amid the dreary backdrop of mud, cold, and rain, as if Harry were literally an outgrowth of some larger force that makes us hateful in the face of powerlessness.

By the end of How Harry Became a Tree, you get the feeling that what seemed like an absurd dream has become a tragic reality, barren branches and all.

-John Petkovic

Editors Note: For DVD release this film has been retitled Bitter Harvest and is available through Ardustry Home Entertainment.

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