Based on the perennial bestseller book of 1973 by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, The Secret Life of Plants, this gem of a documentary, released in 1978, tells the story of the fascinating discoveries of Cleve Backster, an interrogation specialist and polygraph (lie detector) instructor, who showed how plants react to human care or cruelty, and that plants have their own taste in music and are able to communicate across species.
The film also showcases various other experiments and researchers, such as Dr. Hashimoto of Fuji Electronics Industry and his wife in Japan, who “taught” a human language alphabet to plants. The documentary also presents unique footage from the famous Dogon tribe of West Africa.
Many critics regard the original Backster research as pseudoscience, because plants do not have a nervous system and therefore “cannot” possibly perceive, think, or communicate. Nevertheless, the book and film leave a profound impression on most readers and viewers that there is more to be discovered in our relationship with the plant kingdom.
Interesting tidbit: Both Backster and Bird worked for the CIA, while Tompkins was a spy for the OSS.
Stevie Wonder composed the film’s soundtrack, which is available on his album Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants but for copyright reasons has been muted in this YouTube upload.
The Secret Life of Plants — book by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird
Primary Perception: Biocommunication with Plants, Living Foods, and Human Cells — book by Cleve Backster about his many years of research into this phenomenon.
The Secret Life of Plants documentary on IMDb.