Director’s Cut: "The Trees" by Philip Larkin: A Film Proposal

Image Credit: Nurina Iman Nizam

E. Keogh shares their proposal for poem "The Trees", and how they would direct it.

The poem, "The Trees" by Philip Larkin, has always stuck with me since studying it for the Leaving Cert. It represented hope for me during an extremely difficult time in my life. The last line of the poem; “Last year is dead, they seem to say, / Begin afresh, afresh, afresh” was particularly memorable to me, as it reminded me that no matter the hardships I endured, I could always look forward to a new future. 

Many directors would be very capable of capturing the scenes I envision for the poem, but I’d have to say I would prefer to direct it myself, in order to preserve the story and meaning behind the film. As for actors, I’d cast a younger Robert Sheehan as the main character. He’d be the sole focus of the film, the rest of the cast would be mostly blurred out, background actors. 

The plot would centre around a Leaving Cert student, as he struggles with the feelings of isolation and the uncertainty of what his future holds. I love scenic shots, so I'd be sure to include a fair chunk of them in the form of flashbacks. They’d be full of natural imagery to reflect the tone of the poem, but they’d be contrasted by bland and boring colours in the school uniform, the school, and everything else that focuses on school and the Leaving Cert. 

After all the doom and gloom of opening his results, he’d find he wasn’t accepted to his first few choices but ended up in an art course in a smaller college. His mam, although in an out of focus frame, could be seen and heard crying. However, he’d be chuffed - all his first choices were all things he could study to get “a proper career”. 

The scenery would change to be more colourful, and everything would be brighter. The last shot would be from behind and as he approaches the front entrance to the college, the camera would swing around to be in front of him, and he’d begin to smile as he mouthed “begin fresh” and all sounds start to fade apart from the sound of leaves thrashing in the wind.

The main difference between a book or in this case a short film would be the challenge of making it long enough to be a book, but it could be done by adding more backstory to the character and fleshing out other characters. Although personally, I feel that a short film conveys the main message a bit better due to its short and easily accessible nature.