Director: Terrence Malick
“[The Tree of Life] has divided audiences more radically than almost any other ilm so far this century. For its supporters, The Tree of Life is a masterpiece – a sublime spiritual mediation on life, destiny, childhood, memory, and our place in the universe. For its detractors, who booed it heartily at its premiere at the 2011 Cannes Festival (where it went on to win the Palme D’Or), it’s a windy, pretentious self-indulgence that makes naive gestures toward cosmic significance.” (932, Philip Kemp, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) I am quite firmly placed in the detractors camp and have been since I watched The Tree of Life for the first time. I’m not sure I would have booed it had I been at Cannes but I definitely came away feeling confused and disappointed, a feeling that if anything has only increased with watching the film again.
“The Tree of Life has virtually no plot” (932) which meant I often lost focus. I said in my previous review that it wouldn’t be out-of-place in an art gallery and I stand by it. It would be perfect as an installation somewhere but I don’t think it works as a feature film.
As Kemp says “what both camps agree upon, though, is that it’s breathtakingly lovely to look at.’ (932) and that is undeniably true. While I don’t like the film as a whole I can certainly appreciate the incandescent visuals created under the talented eye of Emmanuel Lubezki, whose nomination for Cinematography was richly deserved. I liked that many of the shots are from unusual perspectives or focus on different aspects within the frames as well as the recurring images of hands, sky and trees, usually shot from a low upward angle.
“Controversy over the film homes in on a seventeen-minute chapter that erupts unheralded into the narrative: a wordless history of the universe from galactic eruptions through protozoic life-forms to computer generated dinosaurs.”(932) I am right there with the controversy. I was extremely confused by the appearance of the dinosaurs. They are rendered beautifully but they seem so out-of-place which is saying something in a film with no plot or narrative. It’s almost as if someone has spliced a section of the wrong film into it during the editing process but for the fact it was edited digitally.
Sadly I don’t think the arresting visuals are enough to truly hold my attention and I doubt I will watch it again.