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It might be ridiculous to hold such a hyperbolic opinion regarding a
film that's barely 4 years old, but The Tree of Life might actually be
my favorite movie of all time. Being able to understand the film isn't
paramount to being able to appreciate it, but it helps. What Malick is
doing is retelling the Biblical story of Job through the prism of his
own childhood, and detailing his eventual return to Christianity. And
instead doing this with a proper narrative, he chooses to tell the
story the way memory works: using snippets, feelings, images rather
than plot or dialogue.
The universe creation scene was likely an to allusion to God's answer to Job. If you're not familiar with the story, Job was a man who had a crisis of faith after losing everything: his wife, children, vocation. He then, understandably, starts to question God - in the famous verse: "Brace yourself like a man. I will question, and you shall answer." God then replies with the opening text of The Tree of Life: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth? When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" In other words, "how can you possibly understand my plan? You're just a tiny infinitesimal part of my vast creation." He then goes on to take Job on a journey through the cosmos, like Malick does with this film.
Other than the opening text, there are other hints to this, like the protagonist's name being Jack O'Brian - JOB, or the fact that Job is mentioned by the priest in the film. So i'm fairly confident that the Job interpretation is correct.
"The nuns taught us there were two ways through life: the way of nature, and the way of grace."
Malick also deals with the philosophical distinction between Gnosticism (the spiritual view of life) and materialism (the scientific view of life). The mostly silent protagonist played by Sean Penn is caught between the two ways of life, and sees that distinction personified in his two parents when reminiscing on his childhood.
The Tree of Life isn't just the most visually spectacular film since 2001, it's also the most daring and original. It justifies every superlative used to describe it, and is one of the very few films capable of living up to the adjective of "masterpiece."
And that's okay. Malick isn't for everyone. There is a rare dichotomous paradigm that exists wherein some things can be incredibly brilliant and yet not necessarily inspire people to experience it multiple times. Such is the case w many of Terrence Malck's films. Tree Of Life especially so. On the one hand it is an exceptional piece of filmmaking that perfectly highlights an artist at his peak. On the other hand it is a slow moving brooding and poetic work of art that simply doesn't work as well as entertainment as it does a reflection of human life. Simply put if you're looking to be entertained, don't enter here. But if you're an intellectual looking to be inspired or amazed then you will always remember this indisputable masterpiece. It really is that simple. In that this film acts as a natural dividing line between the masses and the more cerebrally focused. The former despise this film -- because they mistakenly thought they were going to see a "movie"; and the latter find it breathtakingly brilliant and beautiful. I can easily float between both worlds, simultaneously appreciating this magnificent work of art AND completely understanding how mind numbing and boring it can be if you're looking to be entertained. Therein lies the rub: it all depends on what you're in the mood for.
This is a deep, intense movie that can make you blossom inside with joy
and at the same time reopen old forgotten sores. It's been a long time
since I saw such a movie and I totally enjoyed it. Hope you do too.
Essentially, the movie is about:
1. The personal, intimate relationship with The Creator. Sometimes we estrange ourselves from God, following an illusory personal success, other times we get back to Him, looking for an answer for the things that happen to us and help.
As viewers, we have access to the main characters most intimate place, where we witness their inner talk with God.
2. The creation of life. The great mystery of how life appears and the great mystery of how it ends. And about the sacred mysterious order by which everything takes place.
3. Relationships, family and childhood. The wounds we suffer during childhood shape our personality and mark us for life. It is in the depth of our own being that we can find the power to forgive and love unconditionally, eternally.
4. The ephemeral and superficial nature of personal feelings as opposed to the eternity and greatness of life itself.
This is a review that I wrote for my blog ( www.lotuspocusfocus.com ) but I wanted people who check IMDb's ratings & reviews to have access to a positive view also. Because this movie is great. I believe all negative commentaries are but poor understandings of the topic.
Lets cut right to the chase. A very esoteric and somewhat artsy film with tons of angst as it presents an abusive father son relationship...and the spread to the three boys, with the helpless mother. The film didn't cut it for me. A much more effective treatment of the subject matter is "The White Ribbon", a pre world war I German movie that was more realistic and had more impact. I'd suggest the Tree of Life borrowed from it, at times, and "The Tree" knows not if it is an "imaginery" or "reality" in the making. For those reasons, I give it a 3 out of 10 and suggest a 'healthy'alternative - if there is such a thing!
As any fan of writer/director Terrence Malick can tell you, some of us have been waiting for The Tree of Life for quite some time. I think it was announced that he was making this film shortly after his 2005 feature The New World. Different websites would report on any news they had on the film, but for the most part everything was in secrecy and what they did report just added more to the mystery. The release date for the film kept getting changed around as well until finally this year it was released into theatres after a successful premiere at The Cannes Film Festival this year. Just to sum it up briefly, The Tree of Life is a very spiritual, religious and poetic film that shows us breathtaking images of one's idea of what the beginning and creating of the world looks like as well as some of this earth's earliest creatures and some beautiful natural occurrences and the beauty of nature that is all around us. The film then focuses on a family growing up in the 1950's in Texas. The film shows us how devoutly religious the family is and that through their years together as a family they experience much joy as well as heartache and sorrow. All of this is seen through the one son, Jack. He looks at his mother almost as a saint as she is very soft spoken, kind and playful. His dad on the other hand has cause him great grief and trouble over the years even into his much later stages in life. It is not that his father did not love him, but rather had a different way of showing it. His father was very strict and demanded recognition and respect. Everything to him was very matter of fact and routine and there are some scenes we see him with his young children that actually caused me some discomfort and anxiety. Not because they are violent, but because of the emotional intensity of the scenes and how real and believable it is. We get to see the young boys growing up with each other and their friends and going about day to day life such as school, chores and family life. Often at times there was a very peaceful feeling I got while watching them and then in times of trouble you could also really feel for this family and the young kids and it would almost disturb you. The sequences showing the creating of the world and this earth were very beautiful and done to some very poetic voice overs and music and by the end of this film I felt quite emotional. I felt that way because in this movie we see so much beauty and also the hardships and difficulties of life and because it feels so real and personal I can not imagine it hitting home to most viewers who watch it. The film is done in such a way that many will lose patience with it and not care for it whatsoever. This is more a film for the braver filmgoers who like a challenge and liked to be challenged by their films and think about what they just saw. This film will leave you questions and perhaps in it's own way give you answers to your own life, existence and past memories you have had on your path down this life whether they have been good, bad, or like most of us a little of both. The Tree of Life is a haunting and beautiful film that reached my inner emotions and left me quite quiet after I saw the film, but gave me a lot of food for thought and it was definitely a very worthwhile and meaningful movie experience that I am glad I had. One of the best films of the year.
Terrence Malick's 5th film since his brilliant debut, Badlands (1973),
The Tree of Life is seemingly a semi-autobiographical familial story of
the O'Brien flock. The film begins with a brief look at the family in
1950's Texas. Headed by Brad Pitt's authoritarian Mr O'Brien, his wife
Jessica Chastain, and their three boys, Jack (Hunter McCraken), R. L.
(Laramie Eppler) and Steve (Tye Sheridan). This is often juxtaposed
with an adult Jack (Sean Penn), who seems to be struggling with the
memories of his childhood. The end of these first sequences are
occupied by the death of one of the boys.
This is followed by a grandiose, visually stunning opus of the creation of worlds and life. A heavily orchestrated sequence with a scientific outlook for the big bang and what follows. We even see some CGI dinosaurs, occupying the beautiful, serene landscape. A tree, like life has wild branches, vein-like, splitting off on tangents, moving into different directions. Humbled by the complexity of this, we are back with the O'Brien clan, as we see birth in all it's joy. A family drama ensues, with Pitt's father, authoritarian, sometimes coldly tender to his boys. He does love his boys, but is stern, particularly with the eldest, Jack. Jack's feelings of hate towards his father becomes increasingly apparent. As Jack progresses, he begins to see the world, the relationships, in a more mature manner. In one sequence he states to his father, "This is your home, you can make me leave any time you want." His thoughts are whispered, as he thinks after "You want to kill me". Jack is also seen praying for God to kill his father.
The films major theme is reflective of both religion and hard science. Philosophy is fundamental to the process involved in the nature of life. Mrs O'Brien tells her sons in voice-over "There are two ways through life: the way of nature and the way of grace". This perfectly encapsulates the meaning behind the film. All actors involved are wonderful. Pitt's Mr O'Brien is stern, and effective, we feel almost threatened by his coldness. And all three boys are seemingly natural in their performances.
For the visual effects, Malick had Douglas Trumball pulled out of retirement, and (except for the dinosaurs), began experimental with natural substances to create the beautifully realised creation sequences. The use of Trumball seems to be reflective of the nature of the films themes. The Tree of Life often feels like a religious reworking of Stanley Kubricks 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - that Trumball also worked on - and Malick, like Kubrick, uses music wonderfully, evoking creations beauty. It is simply the elliptical nature of the film that gives it a fantastical, grandiose quality. Creation of life is juxtaposed with it's inevitable partner, death, and in turn how this effects life.
Winner of the Palme D'Or at 2011's Cannes film festival, The Tree of Life has been met with polar-opposite reactions. In its first showing at Cannes it was booed. Pretentious has been bandied round a lot in reaction to the film. Yeah, it has pretensions (of course it does - it's a huge subject to tackle). I watched the film with awe, its beauty utterly beguiling and surprising me. Many of the shots in the film are so stunning, I would be very happy to frame them to adorn my walls. And, due to its complexities, it is certainly one of those films that requires more viewings.
It is easier to dissect former professional basketball player Tree Rollins' NBA Career than to review Director Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" so please bear with me. The renowned Malick, who is a recluse in his personal life, does not play by the prototype Hollywood film narrative formula. And that is definitely exhibited in "The Tree of Life". I could now divulge into the plot points of the movie (as I usually do during this portion of my film reviews); but the problem is that there is no plot in "The Tree of Life", and in fact it's not really a problem. "The Tree of Life" branches itself primarily on the themes of evolution, nature, grace, religion, and existentialism; and has something in common with porno movies, it shows a "big bang" (but not the one you're thinking, exiting gutter). All these aforementioned themes are incorporated within the memories of the character Jack during middle age as he fixates on his childhood in Waco, Texas with his domineering father, free-spirit mother, and two brothers. Huh? You just gotta see it to know what I rambling about! "The Tree of Life" is not an "Inception", it's not supposed to be a cerebral challenge for viewers. It is more a visual avenue where a viewer can analyze their life experiences within the context of the universe, etc. (believe me when I say etc.) Are you still with me? Do you think I am barking up the wrong "Tree of Life"? Maybe so, but that is OK. Because how you plant the "The Tree of Life" in you is also OK, unless you dismiss it instantly and don't give this tree a change to grow in your consciousness. Malick presents one of the most stunning cinematic visual sequences you will ever see in a motion picture in "The Tree of Life". Can someone already please hand over the Best Cinematography Oscar to Emmanuel Lubezki? Yes, that good! "The Tree of Life" and "The Tree of LeBron" has something in common, they have mucho haters. It is not a movie where after experiencing one says "It was OK, I guess". It has no middle ground, it's in "love it or hate it" territory. I really liked it, did not love it, but really liked it, and 93.4% it was because of Malick's mastery direction. If it was like he was a ghost character in the film, I can't really describe it; like his films really. Brad Pitt was solid as bully dad (sorry Mr. O'Brien, I meant Father) Mr. O' Brien. Jessica Chastain as Mrs. O' Brien was quiet in verbose but at the right volume with expression with her wonderful performance. And crack in another impressive child actor because Hunter McCracken was a revelation with his impressive acting as Young Jack. The only Jack that should have been kept more in the box was Sean Penn playing the older Jack. Even though his character was pivotal in the film, there was no need for Penn to play it. Any other actor could have done what Penn did in just wandering around elevators, streets, his home, and his office building. Malick's screenplay was not as impressive as his direction, but the screenplay is not the trunk part of "The Tree of Life". The only movie that slightly resembles "The Tree of Life" is Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey". But even so, "The Tree of Life" will be like nothing you have ever seen before in the cinema. When you do, just remember to open your cerebral roots of your mind and just let the Malickism take you away! **** Good
I thought David Lynch's movie "Eraserhead" was the worst movie I'd ever
seen until I saw this two-and-a-half-hour-long fountain of diarrhea.
I'm not going to repeat what many other reviewers have stated on this
site, but I have yet to read a negative review that characterizes the
movie inaccurately. In short, it's excruciatingly boring, horrendously
long, inexcusably pretentious and a complete and total waste of good
acting and a good script.
Even Sean Penn has panned this movie and he was in it. This movie is clearly a result of nobody telling this director "no." It's not experimental. It's not meaningful to anyone else but the director Malick. And, it's not worth your time to go see it.
If this had been presented as a student film at the UCLA School of Film (or any other school of that type), the person making it would have been run out of the program.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is absolutely absurd. I cannot imagine how people can rate this
movie an 8. After 20 minutes, to be exact 23minutes & 54seconds of
cloud-watching and useless conversations I had to stop the movie.
To be honest, this is the first time I write something in IMDb. I watch films daily, but first I always check the rating on IMDb. Now, I can truly say that Brad & his colleges took 20minutes of my life. It was worse than sitting in the traffic, sitting on the toilet with serious diarea without lecture. Even more, I think, If I ever get diagnosed with ear or eye cancer, I MUST have been because of this movie. You cannot imagine the anger I had when I turned my screen off, I really wanted to stick my penis into the screen and say: "Now its my time to f*** you in the a**".
I love Malick and was looking forward to seeing a piece by someone who is not afraid to take chances. Unfortunately, he took too many with this one. He seemed so interested in having his (stunning) imagery and obscure phrasing of the actors transmit so much of his message that he undercut so much of any message I could find...and I really was trying! Pitt was great and, again, the cinematography was compelling but, at the end, I felt like I had missed what he was trying to do. Or, as the guy three seats over from me said at the end: "I knew I should have dropped some acid, for this film." He really didn't seem interested in using film as storytelling and anyone who expects this from film will find themselves disappointed.
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