Topic: Some over-due thoughts about “The Tree of Life”
This notion of summing up a film in one sentence is ridiculous to me. Films for the most part have many layers and giving it a one sentence or phrase to describe it is elementary. Now Tree of Life is a particular film that garners this sort of reaction because its not an easy and laid out film that you can grab some popcorn and be mindlessly whisked away because its a rare film that actually makes you think and judge what you are seeing. It’s a particular piece of cinema that garners you indulging your senses and intelligence. But I can sum this film up in one sentence for those layman’s out in radio land; and frankly I can do it in one word “Life”. It’s actually a case of Life and Death but i will address this further later on.
Now how is it that people think this particular film has no coherency? When everything to understand this film; like every other film ever made, is right there you simply need to surrender to cinematic flow. Because the people who are immediately going to hate this film are the same people who ask six billion questions during a film when they need to wait and there answers will inevitably be answered if they take some intelligence and comprehension to do so. Sean Penn’s character lost his brother when he was 19. This is a story taking place somewhere 30 years later. Now where people are going to get lost and Malick’s ultimate flaw occurs is the fact he is working in modern times to tell parts of this story. Something Malick has never done and from the reactions of Penn and the style of film this is something Malick is not comfortable with and therefore important things that should be addressed are lost because Malick is having a hard time working in a time he is not comfortable with. Now as for Malicks blatant tangents, they do become redundant and frankly tedious after a while, but the world and life is a slow thing. He is trying to address this with the pace of the film. Malick is giving faith into audiences that that will not just be drawn off because Brad Pitt isn’t on screen. If Brad wasn’t in the film at all and this was a bunch of complete unknowns; would most feel differently about this film?? It’s a lot like going to church; it’s incredibly boring but if you pay attention you will get a story out of it, if you don’t the opposite will occur. You in essence are experiencing the film through Penn’s emotional comprehension of his brothers death and the ways he has to deal with this to finally make peace by realizing the complexities of life and where we came from and how much we should cherish our own life. But don’t make this false case for this being a religious film because it most certainly is not. This is making a very strong case for evolution and how we need to have enlightenment through experiences through our lives because an afterlife is simply a figment of our imagination. This can be considered the most anti-religious spiritual film ever made. Because his religious elements are expressed through semi-bad people like Pitt’s character. You feel for Jessica (the mother)’s character because she is the non religious and frankly sane one of the family. And its also baffling for a non coherency argument because there is just so many cliche moments littered in this film from getting fired, moving, nothing being the same after moving, turning to religion (although this doesnt help here…). It is drama at it’s most pure. Bringing the souls on the lost beach is even cliche but if you actually look past it and look at the full meaning with the rest of the film, its simply something for Penn to help deal with his brother because he committed suicide himself. This sequence is is Penns subconscious right before he dies from his own life taking after years of torture he has put upon himself from his brothers death. It’s a film to teach love of nature and grace and not religion and power. It needs to be remembered life is a complex thing and a film about it should not spoon feed you info you want right at this second because you should process it in your own way.
Audiences has this reaction back with 2001 also and over time has been properly put into its place as one of the greatest films ever made. Will this be in the same realm as 2001 in decades to come… NO. Because this is an extremely pretentious film that tries to do too much in too short of time. I think this is one of the best films made in a very long time but does it garner it way to the top of all time; absolutely not. Because with his pompous way of trying to incorporate modern society he lost some of his cinematic narrative. This is why it will be considered great but not one of the greatest. There are flaws because of Malicks ego to try and get some things across that either needed to be expanded upon or omitted. It is nothing new to say the cinematography and performance from Brad Pitt are simply some of the greatest of all time, and the sheer brilliance of Malick putting some faith in the cinema patrons intelligence; but it needs to be remembered this film could have been even more if narrow minded audiences actually took the cinematic journey they were meant to take, and the film was a proper 4+ hours. This is a film that will probably always be talked about just not revered in the same way similar films are now. But all in all this film ultimately asks the viewer “what is life to you”??