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Review: John Boorman at DBF

In the stunning surrounds of John Boorman’s estate in Wicklow, Darragh McCullough orchestrated a fascinating conversation with the internationally renowned film director. Seated beside a majestic twin Oak tree, John expressed his affinity for trees, stating that he feels a particular communion with the trees in his tranquil estate, and has relished the opportunity presented by Coronavirus lockdown to record his feelings toward them in his new book, John Boorman’s Nature Diary: One Eye, One Finger (Lilliput Press). He also revealed that he uses his relationship with trees to put his own life into perspective; he channels his feelings about growing older into the trees that surround him, which are dignified and graceful in their own age.

Most well known for the many films he has made, Boorman drew intriguing parallels between his movie-making techniques and the things he loves most about nature: he found that his reliance on silence in his movies to challenge and unsettle our instinct to fill every moment with sound was reflected in the stillness and silence of his estate during lockdown. He also commented that his proximity to the river flowing through his estate reminded him of his use of flowing water in his film-making to portray motion and constant movement.

Boorman went on to talk about how he was lucky enough to spend six months in the Amazon rainforest as part of his work. While he laments the fact that huge tracts of land in the Amazon are being felled, he implores us to remember just how big it is, and to take inspiration from its majesty. Indeed, that is exactly what he has done: with the help of his family, he has planted 100,000 trees on his estate in Ireland, and credits his time in the Amazon as his inspiration for it. And it was not just some small footnote to his life’s accomplishments; in fact, he rated his tree-planting achievements higher than his much-lauded artistic achievements. McCullough summed up what must have been the audience’s reaction by saying that ‘anybody can go out and plant a tree’, but Boorman’s humility shone through in his response: ‘Well anyone can make a movie.’ 

Afterwards, viewers were lucky enough to be treated to a screening of ‘I Dreamt I Woke Up’, Boorman’s 1991 essay film, courtesy of the Irish Film Institute.

At a time when people have been rekindling their relationships with nature, Boorman aptly verbalised the reasons it can have such a profound impact on us; he ensured that an inspiring and reassuring evening was had by all.