THE TREE OF LIFE follows the life journey of an eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father.
THE TREE OF LIFE follows the life journey of an eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father. less
“The film carefully knits three different stories and puts across a message with the help of stunning imagery. Combined with brilliant performances and operatic background score, The Tree Of Life becomes a memorable experience.”
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There are movies which entertain you, maybe put across a message or two, fire up a few cells up there and you call them enjoyable cinema, maybe even good cinema. But what about a movie like 'The Tree of Life'? Where would you place a movie like this? A movie that challenges every narrative convention; a movie that looks to speak to you not so much in words but in images that seem not connected so much to each other but seem to come together in the larger scheme of things for putting across a message that is assured will require a second viewing to be comprehended properly. A movie so seeped in the unconventional that you forget you were watching a movie, you stop looking for well-rehearsed dialogues, scenes and moments but instead give yourself up to the moment and soak in all there is on offer. You might still be left scratching your head at the end of it all, but be assured it'll be an experience that is going to stay with you for a long time after you have stepped out of the theatre.
The story is divided over three different narratives out of which two are directly linked while the third covers and is the origin for everything else. One is set during the 1940s & 50s in an American suburbia within the O'Brien family (Brad Pitt & Jessica Chastain). The O'Brien's have three boys out of which the subject of the film is Jack whose outlook to life is defined by not just the way his parents treat him but also by their respective distinct outlook on life. However the death of one of the brothers (which is revealed in the first ten minutes itself) causes grief which has far reaching effects on an older Jack (Sean Penn) till this day. It is this story of Jack's guilt of some sort which forms the second narrative as he looks back upon his life growing up. The third is a metaphysical meditation on life and religion beginning right from the creation of the earth. Its akin to reading the Bible only written by say Charles Darwin. This is the visually most mesmerising portion of the film and will evoke some response from you, good or bad. All three are intertwined with such ease that even sudden cuts back and forth feel utterly natural.
Terrence Malick's movies tend to have an almost aloof style of narrative that inspite of sticking to basic plot manages to capture the randomness around the subjects, be it nature, other people or simply objects. This gives his films an almost meditative outlook which to the right viewer can be a fascinating study of environment but to the wrong viewer can also represent a mind-numbing moment of "get on with it already".
The seamless editing coupled with astounding cinematography only throws a multitude of images so neatly tied assembled together like jigsaw puzzle of awe-inducing size and beauty. I'd advise you to keep an open mind and soak in those images, stop thinking too much about them and see how they make you feel. Add Alexandre Desplat's operatic background score and its something to behold in all its beauty.
However if I try and go down a path of looking at it in cinematic conventions, the movie's narrative comes off as a little unclear and Sean Penn's part being particularly pretentious. The use of only images in much of the movie's running length renders the narrative broken in parts and for those who fail to grasp the religious overtones of the movie will completely be at a loss as to what happened.
Other than Penn's not a single performance rings false; the two which impressed me greatly were that of Jessica Chastain & Hunter McCracken as a young Jack. Chastain has this mellow vulnerability and that natural warmth which make her character all the more endearing.
'The Tree of Life' is not an easy watch, it requires the ability & patience to allow the movie to pull you in, keep and open mind and yet allow questions to be raised by what is shown on screen. It might seem pretentious in parts and like I said Sean Penns part does feel that way but its an experience to behold in all its glory. Watch it on the big screen...