Tree of Life

Tree of Life FilmTerrence Malick is a bit of an enigma. He makes incredibly beautiful films, sometimes decades apart and then suddenly he has three coming out within about a year’s time. Tree of Life is the film that kick started this most recent surge of activity. As the title suggests, it is a highly allegorical film. Think the first few chapters of Genesis set against a family living in semi rural Texas in the 1950s. We even are treated to the creation of the universe using some spectacular photos courtesy of NASA. The domestic saga is a heartbreaking exploration of a dysfunctional family trying to cope with tragedy, hope, and life in general. Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain are the parents of three boys who are each struggling to find their place in the family and society. There are regrets and lost opportunities, but there seems to be a basic love that underlies all of the harshness and futility. Sean Penn plays one of the boys as an adult, and we see the effects of his childhood carried over into his adult life. Some people will be put off by the nonlinear narrative but I suggest that they stay with it and they will be amply rewarded. On a side note, most of the film was shot with available light giving it a real ‘cinema verite’ feel, but at the same time somewhat surreal. Confusing I know, but worth the effort. There is refreshingly little CGI involved and that makes the scene with Jessica Chastain and the butterfly all the more amazing. I suggest that on the first viewing of Tree of Life that you just let the film take you where it goes. Let yourself be overwhelmed by its sheer otherness. Later viewings can lend themselves to closer analysis.

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