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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of the most boring, absurd movies I have ever seen. I
usually seek out good movies to watch rather than watch trash put out
by Hollywood. I assumed that this was a great movie since it had won at
Cannes and had a 8.0 at IMDb.
The only uplifting moment in the movie for me came because of "Die Moldau" by Smetana. I am writing this because I feel cheated out of my time and money (I drove from College Station to Dallas to watch this) by being misled by people who praised this movie. I used to have a lot of faith in the movies that won at Cannes, but this is truly absurd.
Some call it artistic and creative. I wanted to be 'moved' and transformed by a movie. This did neither. It was absolutely boring from the moment it started till it ended. My thoughts during the movie were "when is this going to make any sense?", "when is it going to become interesting", "why are there dinosaurs?" "When is Sean Penn going to speak?" Is that a clip from the 'Planet earth?' " and "is it over yet?"
Well that's what portions of this film looked and felt like when it wasn't being a National Geographic documentary. I saw this at the press screening at Cannes (where it got some jeers amongst the claps). I will admit that the scenes with the children were beautiful and in places thought provoking but Sean Penn might as well not of have been in it and I found his scenes in the film the most "Calvin". Now don't get me wrong, I'm not averse to slow moving, "difficult" films and I admit it looks and sounds great, but for me, there just wasn't enough... Shame, because I really wanted to love it. *See Nostalgia de la Luz - 2010 (which was at Cannes last year) if you want to see a moving film about life and what it means.
Life and death are existence. Existence is a neverending cycle. To be
happy you must learn to love everything.
These are perhaps the biggest, most powerful concepts we as humans know. They are also the most commonly regarded ones. So, why bother making a "movie" that has no message beyond what everyone already knows? Life is beautiful (if you allow yourself to see it that way) ... and don't let all that beauty slip by you now! :: shakes pointer finger in front of your face :: Wow. How profound... I've never thought about that before... and I've DEFINITELY never seen a movie that touches base with that concept...
Normally, I am a huge fan of abstract/obscure films that most people consider "art" with atypical progressions, etc. Now a lot of people see this as a piece of art. But to me, it's tough to see it that way because I feel like it has literally no depth whatsoever. What makes "art" art to me is when someone infuses their own creative personality into their project - now, if this is Terrence Mallick's art, then I guess he must just be an incredibly boring person.
Although I found the 2nd half of the film to be stronger than the first, I had an extremely difficult time staying entertained and getting through it. I began growing anxious and impatient due to the repetition and more importantly the pointlessness... now typically i'm into repetition, but only when the repetition has meaning.
In this case, we are forced to watch endless scenes of a small boy playing and/or dealing with his controlling, annoying father. I get it... he's growing up. But why do we care? He's just a regular kid...Nothing interesting is happening in his life. Now I know a lot of people are going to say "that's what he was going for... so people can relate to it", sure, I understand that... but, what is supposed to make it entertaining? What are we supposed to come back to and remember these characters by? Mallick did a great job with the cast, creating characters that are incredibly realistic and believable - but again the main problem to me is that there is absolutely NOTHING INTERESTING happening in these peoples lives. Why do they even deserve to be characters in a movie? The live and die... their life was hard at times, and beautiful at others... yeah, and same with everyone else's. I don't need 2 hours full of shots of the universe being created and little boys playing catch to be reminded that life is beautiful...The concept is boring. It's been done. Overkilled.
Now, of course, the absolute highlight of the film is the breathtaking cinematography, and even more specifically the stuff they captured (however they did is beyond me!) showing the creation of the universe and the development of living beings! Visually, Tree of Life is a marvelous feast but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that is just about ALL it has to offer. If I wanted to watch shots of nature and space, I would just turn on the Discovery Channel.
All kinds of people are comparing this movie to 2001: A Space Odyssey. When Gaspar Noe compared his own film, Enter The Void, to 2001 - I knew I could trust him - no acclaimed director would say that about his own film without reason. Enter The Void lived up to that title - it was beyond a film - it not only had a vicious roller-coaster to ride plotwise, but it was also a psychological and visual experience unlike anything else I had ever seen. Tree of Life felt like visual poetry about life in general that was more so open for interpretation - my interpretation was that it was about nothing at all. A poem without meaning. A measly poem about trees in a gentle breeze on a summer day... an uninspired bore.
The Tree of Life is MAYBE worth watching once for the visuals, but beyond that I would never recommend it to anyone. It certainly does not belong in the same category as profound artful masterpieces on a similar subject such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Enter The Void, or The Fountain. I will continue backing those as the greatest metaphysical films I have ever seen. Tree of Life - maybe you'll be worth turning on in the background at some casual party at a condominium some time...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
like others attempting to articulate a response, it's hard to say what
it's about - i will just say, however, that it weaves personal and
intimate in with global and eternal time scales in a very convincing
way - it also could not be done in any other way except in cinema. for
me, it feels like poem cinema - a new category?? we all (as human
beings) share deep attachments to mother - either negative or positive;
similarly to dad - and this applies to both male or female (I'd have
liked more on that apart from little boy's berating her, saying that
she does not stand up their father_- and, like the boys in the family,
we have envies and ambivalent feelings much of the time about any sibs
like Job, too, 'god's' answer to what he thinks of us is in creation itself, the majestic forward drive of it - meanings we try to impose sometimes work - but not always. there is nothing we do right or wrong - event is acausal.
a stunning event of a film, and you will walk away feeling just like that - stunned. would i watch it a second time? well, i guess not right away - it did dawdle ... but i would out of love for it however sometime in future, and i'd also recommend it
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Today I've watched Terrence Malick's the "The Tree of Life" for the
second time. The first time was almost three years ago and it was on
the big screen during the opening week. Never was I more excited to
re-watch a film. Not only because I wanted to be transferred back in
time and spend two hours being a part of small town nostalgia in the
50's rural east Texas. I wished to experience art without a need to
leave the realm of my home. There are few filmmakers who can offer you
this and most of them are the long gone European masters with exception
of the brilliant American artists such as Ford, Scorsese, D.W. Griffith
(yes), Lumet, Kubrick and of course the man himself, Terrence Malick.
"The Tree of Life" is the essential art film and in that essence it is aimed for a patient niche audience and certainly not for the Hollywood blockbuster, average Joe moviegoers. And what an irony that is for Malick depicts the everyday American family in the aftermath of the WWII. I am not writing this review to defend this picture from criticism, I'm just here to show my admiration for the most quaint work of art in the world of cinema since Bergman's "Persona".
And for the actors. Brad Pitt's most realistic performance since "Se7en". He is top-notch as the authoritarian (but loving) patriarch and Jessica Chastain as his wife who is just as shy as sore eyes. Beautiful and mesmerizing, like an angel from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, she stands for the unconditional love, Grace. The opening sequences reminded me of an another masterpiece, Wender's "Wings of Desire". The story of how Jack lost his God and became more like his father is one of the strongest ever made on the subject even though it is only captured in short, poetic shots.
But Terrence Malick is trying - and trying, as it says in the song - to get together everyday and eternity, heaven and earth, death and life. He hasn't done so many films in the forty year career since the accomplished debut "Badlands" from 1973. Maybe he does not think he's going to cope with another one. In "The tree of life" he has, in any case, accomplished about everything.¨
On the question if Malick is trying to send us a politically incorrect massage of religion as something positive, I'll just finish this review with: "I give him to you. I give you my son."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a film about everything in means to be a human being. The entire cast shine in this film but this is really a film about unanswered questions, grace, hope, love, and loss. Why is there humans suffering in the world? Director Terrence Malick's answer: a 20 minute creation sequence. God says to man, "See, look, words could never explain." Part nature, part nurture - this film also explores how children are shaped and how events can be made pure through faith and grace or ugly through primal urges and violent nature. The whispering voice-over prayers, beautiful shots of children at play, the galaxy in formation, and all the questions ask make this a essentially contemplative film My favorite film, hands down.
Where to even begin with The Tree of Life? Any release from Terence
Malick is highly anticipated because, let's face it, "prolific" is not
exactly his middle-name. Malick's output of 5 Films in the best part of
thirty years makes Stanley Kubrick look like a Roger Corman protégé.
Ostensibly, The Tree of Life is the story of a young family growing up
in 1950′s Texas. Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain are the parents of
three boys living the suburban life. Whilst, Sean Penn plays the grown
up older son reminiscing over these times. Here is where any attempt to
continue with a plot synopsis collapses under the weight of the films
impressionistic non-linear structure.
The Tree of life is a fundamentally polarising experience of the highest order. There will be those who view it as a mess. A sentimental, art-farty shambles. A two hour long perfume commercial stuffed with "meaningful" abstract shots and scenes. A melange of whispered preposterous platitudes and pretentious, "meaning of life" and infuriatingly glib sentimentality. They'll think it's rambling, mawkish, misjudged, ill-disciplined, lacking any narrative cohesion and packed with the kind of heavy handed-symbolism best left to a 6th form Emo's poetry. They'll think it's the work of a director who's lost the plot up his own arse and submitted a self-indulgent soufflé of a film that'll stretch their patience to breaking point. They will hate it. And, they'll have a point.
There will be others though who view The Tree of Life as an elegiac meditation on memory and grief. They'll think it's a lyrical and visual poem. They'll see discussions of familial remembrance, the friction between father and son, the birth of morality, the Universe and universal truths. They'll see a beautifully meandering and melancholic ode that eschews traditional narrative for a sumptuous visual lyricism that washes over them. They'll be prepared to lie-back and let it take them to more melancholic and meditative shores. They will love it. And, they'll have a point.
Guess, which side I fell on.
I'm really not sure what to think of this. On one hand I found it
boring and, having expected a traditional box office narrative,
disappointing. But on the other hand I found it intriguing and
beautiful. The more I think about it the more I appreciate its beauty.
I think this is a must see, but be aware it is an abstract piece of
work, with no storyline in the usual sense.
My main criticism would be of the creation of earth/life montage - it should have been awe inspiring but things didn't seem to be in order and there were lots of shots that did not show anything in particular, only a nice visual for its own sake. I have seen far better creation montages in documentaries.
The vague parts depicting perceived human relationships and character
interiority needed a little getting used to. Especially some of the
scenes with the mother in them. The subjective (I hate that word)
depiction of the mother was always nebulous and spiritual, which made
me yawn. The parts with the father-son relationship were interesting
though, because of all the tension. Brad Pitt does a great job
portraying a domineering father who is dissatisfied with his rank in
life and wants his son to end up better.
I was moved by the cosmological aspects. The family of the now dead young man reach out to God or the universe for answers and support. As they do, we hear their questions and pleas echoing through the vastness of time, as the forces of the universe bring everything into existence, and as life crawls out of the primordial soup. The worth of a human life may be said to be linked to all of time and space.
The CGI and cinematography were GORGEOUS. I LOVED all the planetary and spacial sequences, and "The Light." All the nature sequences were marvelous. I loved the soundtracks.
It reminded me of 2001: ASO many times, with the cosmos situated over a score of some classical music. But 2001 seemed to be more concerned with human advancement and evolution. The Tree of Life, I guess, tries to be relevant to the worth and character of humanity and its link to the universe. More often that not, I think, it succeeds.
I don't often encounter films that leave me genuinely baffled, but "The Tree of Life" is that rare film for which my only honest response is "huh?" I suspect that the flaw lies in my lack of cinematic sophistication. Although I consider myself a film geek and I can usually figure out the subtleties of artsy films, the film grammar and narrative style of this film elude me. I liked what I understood of the conventional portions of the film, which focus on the problematic and often discomfiting relationship between a young boy (played as an adult by Sean Penn) and his demanding, relentlessly strict 1950s-era father (played by Brad Pitt). Jessica Chastain is luminous as the wife and mother, and the film itself is a masterpiece of stunningly beautiful cinematography. But please don't ask me what the story means or how the various pieces of the film tie together, because I haven't a clue.
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