Thoughts on “The Tree of Life”

Directed by Terrence Malick
Fox Searchlight
US, 138 minutes
Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain

In case you are wondering, last week, I did get to see The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick’s new film. It’s been causing quite a controversy. You can see it as overtly pretentious drab that makes no sense or as some mind-blowing experience that changes your outlook on life. Personally, I still don’t know how to put into words just how I felt. I want to like it, because I think of myself as some cultured movie-goer with some small experience with world cinema and having seen all of Malick’s previous four films. However, I have to admit that it did drag a little bit, with the whole zooming out to the creation of the planet like 2001. Also, I know it was only a minor aspect, but making the dinosaurs look a little better than Jurassic Park wouldn’t have taken much. I thought some of the sequences with the children were some of the best I’ve ever seen dealing with young children. Brad Pitt also pulls off an amazing performance and I swear, if Jessica Chastain’s performance does not propel her to better things, I’ll be really disappointed with the movie business. If there is one thing against the film, it certainly isn’t the acting.

People are doing a lot of talking about walking out. Personally, I did not experience this. My sister and I went to see it at our local 24-theater multiplex on Sunday afternoon and the film was playing in the smallest theater available. We were the youngest people in the theater, although a group of high school kids walked in ten minutes in. Somehow, they survived as did the group of restless elderly people.

Back to Terrence Malick, though. I think he has to wake up and figure out that he can’t keep this style of film-making going. The Thin Red Line, The New World and The Tree of Life are unique in the sense that they’re different than everyone else’s films, but the nearly 150-minute run times and the senseless (almost nonsensical to the point of parodying itself) ‘whispering’ narrations are kind of getting tiresome. TTRL was great because it seemed to grow out of Badlands and Days of Heaven, but I get the feeling that New World and Tree of Life give off signs that this might be as far as Malick can go.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on “The Tree of Life”

  1. I’ve only seen Badlands from Malick, besides this one. The Tree of Life was good too, but it didn’t strike me as very pretentious or mind-blowing. Just an ambitious, contrasting, straight story wrapped up in a slight-philosophical packaging. Admittedly, it’s possible I missed some of the subtler themes, as I was busy admiring the camera-work, and considering the religious angle bores me.

    I was actually surprised at the walkout rates… It doesn’t to be THAT unconventional.

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