“The nuns taught us there were two ways through life - the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow. “
Starring: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain
Writer: Terrence Malick
Heading into this movie I wondered what sort of experience I would have. You see I had heard about the division occurring with people. Some entered the movie and came away with meaningful experiences that had them declare the movie a masterpiece. Others talked about how dense the movie was and how it was just another pretentious exercise in film making. So with the battle field drawn it’s time once again to launch myself into the breech.
Well I hate to be predictable, but as always the answer in my opinion lies somewhere in the middle. Tree of Life is a dense movie, and shares many similarities with some forms of poetry. Malick weaves beautiful imagery together with some heavy themes and a very thin form of a plot. In the end it is up to the audience member to bring in and take out what they want from the movie. In that way for some people this can make the movie a masterpiece, while others would feel like they are wasting their time.
For me I came out of the movie absolutely wrecked, and was depressed for a few days thanks to the themes that I seemed to make connections with. Still this shouldn’t put of people who want to see the movie. As I said above this movie is very dependant on the individual, and I already know other friends who took away positive messages from the movie.
It may seem weird that I’m concentrating more on the experience of the movie rather than the nuts and bolts, but there isn’t too much to talk about. The very basic story is about a family that encounters various problems, though nothing is really cemented. Yet again the actually journey of the characters is up to watcher. As well as the family we have brief glimpses into what could be the future of one of the children played by Sean Penn. I can’t give any real outlook on what these scenes might be. In truth they could of probably been dumped from the movie and nothing overall would have been lost.
Acting wise the only two real stand outs are Brad Pitt who manages to create a complex father figure with nothing but a glance, and Jessica Chastain as the mother who manages to envelop the movie in a maternal warmth in all the scenes she is in. It has to be stressed what a great job they did, as they had to create these characters with out a regular story foundation. This means that the movie can skip ahead so we don’t really get to see how these characters are developing naturally and the work load is on the actor’s shoulders in trying to create something solid. As for Sean Penn well he doesn’t really seem to be doing much. Yet again reinforcing how the scenes set ahead in time seem pointless. Though I’m sure there are plenty people out there who are already yelling at me that I don’t get the point.
Now onto what has to be the strongest aspect of the movie, and the main reason why you should try and catch this movie in the cinemas. The cinematography is gorgeous. In the first 30 or so minutes you are just getting these random shots thrown at you. Waves, lava fields, city scapes, forests, it’s beautiful and you can tell that Malick is revelling in this beauty that he’s put on the screen. When the movie decides to focus a little (not much focus though), we have some very interesting shots. Story is Malick actually had the camera men film some shots at angles which meant they couldn’t see what they were actually filming; going through the mountains of footage they found what worked and used it. I did say that the movie left me depressed, but there were some scenes that just left me in awe at the beauty of it all. Whether you get much from the film or not, I think most people will agree at the beauty on display.
It’s hard for me to recommend this movie, seeming that I’m not sure how people will respond to it. But if you are after a beautiful movie, and don’t mind doing a little bit of work to get some meaning out of it, then I would say go and see the movie before it leaves cinemas. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to go and watch Demolition Man to chill out.