Monday, July 18, 2011

Film Review: The Tree of Life

It is not often that I get to go out and enjoy a film in the theater anymore.  It happens only a handful of times a year at best.

So when it does, I try not to waste the time seeing Beavis and Butthead Do America or the like.  I try and pick out films that I am pretty sure I will either enjoy or that are significant in some way.

Terrence Malick's films are seemingly all worth seeing not only for the limited amount of films he directs but the quality and depth of the ones he chooses as his projects.

I genuinely love The Thin Red Line and found it stuck with me far more that Saving Private Ryan which was released at nearly the same time.  Not that Saving Private Ryan was bad, just that Malick's juxtaposition of nature vs. man and its meditative pacing created a work that hit me at a deeper level than the more traditional story found within Spielberg's film.

The Tree of Life is shockingly more ambitious that his prior works, this time trying to encompass everything from the beginning of time and formation of like one earth to the existence of God within our day to day actions.

A few reviews of the film I have seen call Malick and this film pretentious and self-absorbed.  I didn't find it that way at all.  If Malick and the film had come across as preachy or had been done to tell me there is or isn't a god or how life should be viewed--I would find that to be pretentious and self-absorbed.  Instead what I came away with is that Malick is a man full of questions without answers.  Hope without proof and a love of human minutia with awe for the grand scheme of the universe.

A primary method of getting this view across in the film is with his use of fractal imagery.  From trees to flames to stain glass windows, Malick's use of fractals to demostrate that a death in a family is no less a chaotic, impactful force than the creation of the earth itself is excellent.  In the scheme of the universe is the destruction of a planet any larger of an event that the loss of a single human life?

Brad Pitt continues to show that he has little interest in modern Hollywood by taking on this project and Malick seems to like him, having used him in a bit part in The Thin Red Line as well.  I find it kind of funny that two of my favorite actors (Pitt and DiCaprio) both started off in the young heart throb role early in their careers but have both transitioned to appearing in decidedly less commercial fare as they have matured.

The film has little speech at all and even less dialogue--a treat in its difference from most modern films that seem to try and talk you to death, explaining everything verbally as if they were uncomfortable with their own silence or needed to spell out the details of every scene.

As with music (and I think I've stated this before) a truly great work on film is not to be mistaken for the creation any other artist when seen (or heard).  You will never mistake a Scorscese film for a Malick or a Malick for a Kubrick (or a Beatle for a Stones).  They all have that inherent uniqueness that makes them a work of art.  The Tree of Life is unquestionably one of the most impressive works of art on film in 2011.

1 comment:

RC Miller said...

Great review. I've not had the pleasure of seeing this yet but your perception of it certainly enhances my interest.