Lara’s Solo Review of The Tree of Life

28 Jun

“You can just feel the details. The bits and pieces you never bothered to put into words. And you can feel these extreme moments… even if you don’t want to. You put these together, and you get the feel of a person. Enough to know how much you miss them…” – Leonard Shelby (Guy Pierce), Memento

While this insight into memory is being recited, it is accompanied by random, intimate images. Shots of Shelby’s deceased wife around the house, views of her shoulder and the way the light came in through the window, extreme close ups and ordinary, yet striking images—making up one of my favorite scenes of all time. I’ve often wished I could see a movie that was made up entirely of that montage and, apparently, Terrence Malick heard my wish, for his long-awaited The Tree of Life, is just that.

To put it simply, The Tree of Life is a story of a family’s memories. To put it a little more complexly, it is a non-linear, narrative-lacking tale of a complex family’s place in the history of the universe. Or something. It encompasses scenes of modern, corporate America, the big bang, small-town Texas in the 1950s, pre-historic dinosaurs, supernovas, and everything in between. It’s Koyaanisqatsi, if Koyaanisqatsi had an actual plot thrown in sporadically. A (sort of) plot about boys playing during the summer in the middle of the twentieth century. So basically, it’s Koyaanisqatsi meets “Dandelion Wine.” A combination I never would have thought possible.

As is true with other of Malick’s films, there is narration throughout the film that changes from character to character. In The Tree of Life the audience can become more intimate with the speaker than ever, as the voice-overs are prayers to God. Beautiful, thought-provoking prayers. It creates an unbiased, pure view of theology, which is extremely refreshing.

Of course, as is also the case of Malick’s films, it’s not easy to watch and it’s definitely not for everyone. There’s no definitive narrative, not many long scenes of dialogue—for the most case there are just insights. Some people will hate it, finding it inflated and tedious, others will praise it for its boldness. I found it to be original and stunning, but I don’t know that I’ll want to watch the film many times in the future. For with the provocative nature comes an overwhelming amount of weight. With a touch of boredom. Now, I don’t want to scare potential viewers away, because I really do think The Tree of Life is inventive and insightful, but there are long scenes of nothingness that purposefully stretch on and on and on, much like this sentence. However, due to such a vast examination of life, every person who does appreciate the film can take something different from it. Some may focus on the interpretation of death, others on the meaning of life, others still may concentrate on the existence of the universe. For me, the most poignant subject matters were the conversations with God, as well as the loss of childhood and innocence. There’s a point in the movie when young Jack, played superbly by Hunter McCracken, says he wishes he could be like his younger brothers. At only about 14-years old, he can already appreciate their naivety and sweetness, and he desires nothing more than to go back to where they are. The longing is intensified by the images of youth and free-living, that, at least to me, is completely heart-breaking.

Whether you like it or not, The Tree of Life is a daring and beautiful movie. Malick goes places that many other filmmakers fear to tread, sparking thought and conversation through scenes of both extreme and ordinary moments. Everyone should go see it, if for no reason than to experience something completely new.

Hoping none of this sounds at all pretentious,

Lara

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One Response to “Lara’s Solo Review of The Tree of Life”

  1. carly cram June 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

    that quote at the beginning was perfect for this review. great job!

    p.s not pretentious at all.

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