The Tree Of Life (2011) ****

I liked this film a lot.

If you like Terrence Malick films (story and traditional narrative are not typically the focus), you may or may not like this one, but you should have at least an inkling of what you're getting into if you go see this.
I've now had the priviledge of seeing 3 of Malick's films in the theater, when they were released. That's not bad, considering the only other 2 films that he has directed were both released before I was born.

I also like The Fountain a lot, another film which I feel Tree has similarities to and which has also been described as "pretentious". It's hard to avoid 2001 comparisons, but this is definitely a different type of film. I actually think this summary, from a user on IMDb, hits it home pretty well:

How can you sum up trees? and life? If a summary was possible then the film it'd deal with would be artificial.
23 May 2011 | by WilliamCrocodile (France) – See all my reviews
Many things have and will be said about this movie. Regardless of the easy critics: it's boring, there's no action, it's self-indulging, etc.., I would only add this. There will always be 2 kinds of people (whether they are film-goers, tourists, readers..): the ones who like to "recognize" things (the same stories being told, who is the hero, who is the villain? the same places to go to, the same food...) and the ones who like to discover new things. As to the film, why don't you try it? How many films have you seen that take your hand and take you to a place you've never been before? On the contrary how often do you understand everything from the very first minutes of a movie? who is going to marry who, who is the bad guy, who's going to betray, will there be a happy end? Aren't you ever fed up with this? Try and see The Tree Of Life. It's about growing up in a family. It's about seeing the world through children's eyes. It's a very American story, and what it's like to be torn between religion, ideals and the lust for success and power and money. It's about betrayal by the people you trust. It's about love.

You may not like it but at least you'll have tried. Be curious!

Yes, some parts felt slow, but some were beautiful, uplifting, curious, confusing, fantastical, ominous, anger-inducing, funny, awe-inspiring.

Just like life, yes?


Further discussion between Rygar (who went to see this with me) and I:

RG: I have some thoughts on themes in the movie.  I think more so than it being about love, which I believe is one theme, that it is about God.  About an hour into the movie I started to notice (whether it was intended by Malick or just my imagining) that Brad Pitt and his wife each seemed to represent what we know to be God.  Brad Pitt represented the vengeful, egotistical, old testament-esque God, while the mother represented the caring, and nurturing God.  He had some lines that really stuck out like “you will call me father, not dad” and “Can I ask you to do something and you have to do it no matter what it is”.  He would make his “children” do things that are completely asinine simply to appease him, much like many religions believe of their “God”  The mother was the more caring, loving God, the way she acted throughout the film.  This is the one theme I sort of clinged onto throughout the film that kept me going and kept me really interested in what was happening next.  Thoughts?

DS: Yes. Absolutely. I'll be honest though, it probably would have taken a second viewing for me to pick up on that, because I was too absorbed in the visuals.

Re: another comment from an IMDb user: “...when the one dinosaur refrains from stomping on the other one, it's meant to represent the evolutionary development of mercy, aka grace, which is one of the big themes of the movie.”

To which I added:

DS: I think it paralleled the ape scenes in 2001, whether intentional or not.

In 2001, the ape finds a bone and discovers that he can use it as a weapon against other apes (and eventually other species), sowing the seeds of violence.
In Tree, the dinosaur that chooses not to kill another dinosaur discovers compassion, sowing the seeds of love (yeah, Tears for Fears!).

[End Spoilers] 

P.S. - TM already working on another project? Sweet! This man does not put out films terribly often.

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