The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life

Help each other. Love everyone.

As per the newest edition of the Must See list, a slew of new films from 2011 have made it into our coveted book. This review, I called early, having wrote it way back in the months of the previous winter, when I was all but certain this film would make the list. Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is a revelation, that is, for those who are able to sit through such a unique film. What I mean is, this isn’t really a traditional narrative film; it’s an experiential thesis, an artistic statement on the nature of life and family.

You gotta love the camerawork in this film, and really in all of Malick’s films; always moving, always flowing, like water upon a canvas. Malick doesn’t linger on a shot like so many other films I could name unless it’s for a particular reason. He is concise, he makes his point with his shots and then moves right along to whatever’s next. Brad Pitt gives probably the best performance I’ve seen from him in a long, long while. I’ve never been a fan of Pitt, but I have to say, he does a remarkable job here, as does Jessica Chastain as his wife, and the children actors as well. The storytelling might be a bit disjointed, but if you haven’t come to expect that from a Malick film by this point, you might be better off staying away from his films.

This is a truly unique experience in film, but like I said, do not go into this expecting a straightforward narrative film. I can only recommend this to those who prepare themselves for such a different type of film. But once you do, you will love the wonderment and drama that Malick delivers with this magnum opus. He creates another world entirely, that we occupy for a short (sorta) while; it is this enveloping and immersive nature that certain movies have that reignites my passion and love for this field of art, and Malick can usually do that to me – I firmly believe this to be his best work to date, and wish only that everyone would be as receptive to this type of film (and this film in particular) as I am.

Arbitrary Rating: 10/10


6 thoughts on “The Tree of Life

  1. I agree with everything you wrote describing the movie, but not with your opinion on its merit. Is it a collection of absolutely stunning images? Yes. I would have given this film the Best Cinematography Oscar. The thing is, a collection of stunning images does not a movie make. There’s about 20 minutes of plot stretched over two hours and 20 minutes of movie. A movie that lacks a story is no better than a movie that contains a great story, but has crappy cinematography. However, the latter kind of movie is usually disliked, while the former is praised. Another analogy is the great performance in a mediocre movie. I can praise the performance, but at the same time not praise the movie.

    • I can understand that, mostly because that’s sorta the reaction I had to Hugo, as I’ll get to soon. For me, though, this isn’t a plot movie; it’s a thesis on life, family, our place in the universe, and what it should mean for all of us, and to that end, I found it extraordinary. Malick’s films rarely have much of a bent on plot, especially nowadays, so to look for one is, to me, to not fully understand what Malick is trying to do with his films. Still, this is one I expected to be in the minority, as it is such a polarizing film. I expect to be in the minority on Hugo as well, for different reasons.

      • I completely understand what Malick is trying to do; I just disagree on whether he’s trying to make movies or as you put it theses.

        As for you being in the minority, I don’t know about that. I saw a lot of glowing reviews of The Tree of Life when it was out last spring. You are correct that it is polarizing.

        And it sounds like we’re going to disagree on Hugo, too. 🙂

        • Well, for me, if we can allow Chantal Akerman to make movies like Jeanne Dielman, and Michael Snow to make whatever he was trying to make with Wavelength, then Malick can certainly make films the way he chooses to.

          And as for Hugo, it’s not that I didn’t like it, it’s that I didn’t absolutely fall ga-ga in love with it like everyone else did. But that can wait; I’ve got a Dracula-a-thon I’ve been wanting to get to first.

          • I haven’t seen Jeanne Dielman yet. Thanks for giving me something to not look forward to. 🙂 I saw Wavelength and also don’t consider it a movie. “Performance art” maybe, but not a movie.

            Call me provincial, but when it comes to “modern art” – “experimental” movies being the film equivalent of this – I feel that the “art” lies not in the creating of it, but in the convincing of someone else to give them money for it.

            And for what it’s worth, I fully expected The Tree of Life to make the list and it is not out of place there. I’m guessing there have been at least 25% of the films I’ve seen on the list that I also do not consider good enough movies for me to recommend them to others. It took me a little while to realize it’s not intended to be a “best movie list” or “greatest movie list”, but rather a list of movies you should see for one reason or another, no matter how bad they are.

            • Yeah, I have a good feeling you’ll hate Jeanne Dielman as much as me and Steve did. You can read our reviews if you’re interested, or you can save being spoiled the experience until you see it yourself. 😀

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