Directed by: Terrence Malick
Genre: Drama, Art House
For some viewers, this is a complete narrative mess, but for the patient viewer, you will find the inner mechanisms of the film are wholesomely entertaining. The film often has us seeing dinosaurs, planets, lava, volcanoes and other weird earth structures as it tells us the story of a 1950’s family. The cinematography was definitely brilliant, and Brad Pitt definitely gave a good performance, but despite the films philosophical sincerity, the narrative is quite messy. Terrence Malick returns to cinema making a film that definitely stands out in 2011.
The thing that brings the film down is how it does not give proper focus to the family we see. We swap back and forth to this family while we sit back and listen to beautiful music and see gorgeously shot visuals including nature, dinosaurs, volcanic activity and even a dream realm that is on a beach (if it is a dream realm to be exact). This is likely the problem people have with the film. It takes a while on first viewing to capture what is going on and to get the essence of the plot. For those who enjoy it 35 minutes in, you will be in for an emotionally effective trip.
There is definitely sincerity about the films story: A religious family with a strict father, three children and a loving mother. Brad Pitt playing the quite forceful father makes you want to slap him round the face with how controlling he is over his family. Towards the end, you will have a feeling of pity on him, and maybe even forgiveness as he comes to realise things he has done wrong. At first, he is a somewhat villain, and as we progress, you get more understanding of him. His family all did a good job in their performances, especially the moody son Jack, who seems to become more like his father towards the end of the film.
This is definitely a strange film and it has a hypnotic charm to it. Terrence Malick has pieced together a story with beautiful imagery resembling life to make something compelling and very, very different. However, I felt it would be far more appropriate to tell the story with more convention rather than making it an incoherent mess.
There is nothing quite like this film that you will find this year, and you will probably hate it for its lack of clarity and narrative, which is understandable. Some critics have acclaimed this as a masterpiece, but most people have been calling it a pseudo-intellectual pile of garbage. In some ways, the film does try way to hard to set itself aside from other films, which really brings it down.
Not to say that the film is laid down quite uniquely. Terrence Malick is a new to me director, but I will take my time on taking a look at his films. The film takes you on a journey that makes you nature, humanity and The New World. “Tree of Life” has been considered to many a masterpiece, and others a sloppy film with not enough narrative convention. For me, it is a wonderful attempt to create something different and it has a variety of complexity, magic and sincerity that makes it an unforgettable experience. It might not be worth the 140 minutes, but for some it should be wonderful journey.
My Rating: 7.5/10
Runtime: 139 Minutes
Written by: Terrence Malick
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures