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Tree of life worth the drive

June 23, 2011

Tree of Life, Terrance Malick’s fifth feature starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn opens in Memphis tomorrow and is well worth the drive. While the film won’t be opening in Oxford anytime soon, if you are a film lover, this one is a must see on the big screen.

While the story has to do with a family in the 1950s and the loss of a child, brother and innocence, it also follows one of the sons, Jack (played by Penn) into adulthood as he seeks an understanding of faith. It is as much his struggle with a father as it is a Father that also drives the movie. But don’t get me wrong, while there is a story line, it is not linear or simple. It is an impressionistic, visceral tug at your emotions. And depending on your religious beliefs, or lack of them, could infuriate you.

Tree of Life is a film experience that you either catch the wave and enjoy the ride, allowing yourself to trust director Malick’s instincts and follow the inner world of Penn, or like about half the audiences, either not get it or get angry that Malick is trying to make some sort of religious statement that doesn’t necessarily coincide with everyone’s beliefs.

The storyline, the people, even the life of earth scenes that are somewhat unrelated to the story all seem unimportant on their own, but it is the myriad connections between them, the strong parallels that Malick draws between the womb and the sea, origins of life and religion, innocence and grief, that make each moment in the film essential to connect to the next.

This film won’t be for everyone. People have walked out on the film. People booed the screen at the end. But also people, like me, sat frozen in the end, glassy eyed, still taking in the breathtaking imagery moments after the credits rolled.

This is one of those films you have to actually experience. You won’t just walk out and say “it was ok.” You will either hate or love it, but it will force you to feel, think and react in a way that most today do not.

If a Malick fan, this is definitely his greatest cinematic feat since “Days of Heaven,” but if upon watching your brain goes to “2001: A Space Odyssey,” there is a reason for that: Douglas Trumbull. The special effects supervisor for both, the parallel of sublime versus mundane is in great part due to his expertise.

This is not a popcorn film that you watch to see Pitt or Penn as actors. They are mechanical and do what is required of them by Malick, but do not be fooled, this has nothing to do with the performances as they are there to serve as archetypes to the reoccuring themes, this is completely the vision of Malick — an inner world that we rarely get to envision on a big screen.

Tree of Life opens at Ridgeway 4 at Malco tomorrow.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Rob permalink
    August 5, 2011 8:37 pm

    I love this movie and agree that people should really seek it out. As is the case with other works of Malick, I assume that I’ll need another viewing for it to settle in. It’s so rare these days that a director takes such risks and reaches to such heights. Glad you dug it as well

  2. June 27, 2011 9:15 pm

    When people demand refunds, you know it’s an interesting film –

    http://consumerist.com/2011/06/theater-warns-customers-no-money-back-if-you-dont-understand-the-movie.html

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