The Wishing Tree is a 1976 Georgian film based on a series of short stories by Giorgi Leonidze. Its name is ნატვრის ხე (Natvris khe) in Georgian and Древо желания (Drevo zhelania) in Russian.
The film is directed by Tengiz Abuladze, and is the second film in his triptych which also includes The Plea and Repentance. Although The Wishing Tree is not as famous as Repentance, it achieved critical acclaim at home and overseas. It won the main prize at the All-Union Film Festival in 1977 as well as awards in the US, Italy, and Iran.
The film takes place in a Georgian village, Kachetien, at the beginning of the 20th century. Incidentally, this village is the birthplace of the famous Georgian painter, Pirosmani, about whom there’s a great movie (find it here).
Most of the movie lacks a typical film narrative. Instead, it weaves twenty-two stories episodically into a visually stunning pastorale. That is, until a tragic love story comes to a head in the final twenty minutes of the movie. Then, things doesn’t appear so peaceful anymore.
The village in the film is full of different people wishing for their own happy endings. But, the main story line of the movie concerns a tragic love triangle. Marita, a beautiful young woman, arrives in the village to live with her aunt. She falls in love with a local shepherd, Gedia. However, the village elders do not sanction their relationship . Instead, they want her to marry a wealthy young man, Seth, despite her and Gedia’s wish to be together.
Eventually, Marita does marry Seth. However, she is still in love with Gedia and meets with him. Meanwhile, though, Marita’s mother-in-law learns of Marita and Gedia meeting, and sets out to exact revenge.
Marita’s mother-in-law notifies the village elders of Marita’s transgressions. Then, the village brutally punishes Marita in line with the traditional moral code of “adat.” They lead her backwards through the village on a donkey and cover her in mud. After this humiliation, she is killed.
As Ulkar Alakbarova at Movies Move Me notes in her review of The Wishing Tree, not every wish is meant to come true.