The Tree of Life (2011) Revisited


The Tree of Life (2011)I’ve been struggling to get The Tree of Life (2011) off the shelf again, wanting to revisit this more recent Terrence Malick film which I heard being talked about at the time, even recommended that I watch it whilst at art-school. I got hold of the film and really didn’t understand it. Making connections with Kubrick‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) which today  seem unfounded really, having seen more of the directors work I have a far better understand of what is going on here. There aren’t half as many dinosaur sequences that I first remembered, although that could be a short on its own.

As the title suggests its all about life, from birth to death and how we cope and live with that life in between. Focusing on the life of one Texan family, I’m particular a father son relationship that is rocky at best, son Jack (Hunter McCracken) and father known simply as Mr. O’Brien (Brad Pitt) an authoritarian figure in his and his families life. A father who wants his sons to be strong, able to defend they’re self’s, before understanding what effect he is having on them. Whilst almost passive mother Mrs. O’Brien (Jessica Chastain) almost watches on, as she too is feeling a strain on their marriage, parenthood as we see is not easy for the father. More maternal instincts are needed.

I think what got me last time were the lingering wandering shots of nature which are commonplace in a Malick film, work as part of a child’s perspective before we leave the known for the unknown wonders that made life on earth possible. Everything is crisp and clear. The sound advice at the beginning of the film was to increase the volume which I actually followed, able to pick up more on the whispering monologues, the lingering thoughts. To the ripples in the streams and the wind that blows by, our senses are awakened.

Coming back down to earth from the heavens we are also seeing the long-term effects of this childhood on Jack now an adult (Sean Penn) who for once isn’t shouting at the top of his voice with poetical passion. Instead he is wandering around aimlessly. His part could easily have been filmed over 10 days as we see little of him to be honest. When we do he’s in a lift or in a far off barren landscape trapped with only his thoughts and memories, that become more clear at the end of the film.

The plot itself is quite loose, and with confusion too, as a brother dies at the start, aged 19, who we see much younger drown in a pool. That’s the only real issue and a few bad cuts. It’s visually flawless, left open to interpretation how adult Jack comes to terms with his fractured childhood and the memories that play out in suburban Texas. Both at home and with friends shaping who he is today which changes over the duration of the film in the brief time that we have with him. Interspersed with incredible visuals that you can get lost in. This was indeed a well deserved revisit that fits far better into my understanding and appreciation of one of the few auteurs working in Hollywood today.

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5 responses

  1. Good film review. You should some of the reviews I have written seeing as you have an interset in film.

    June 6, 2012 at 8:06 am

    • Thanks, I have taken a look at your page, I will return to have a more in-depth read soon.

      June 6, 2012 at 8:10 am

      • Thanks hope you like the reviews I have written.

        June 6, 2012 at 8:20 am

  2. A spectacular, intelligent and very brave film, I think. It’s not perfect, but then the best things never are. Fine performances all round.

    June 7, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    • I know what you mean. It could’ve done with a bit more of something, I can’t put my finger on it though.

      June 7, 2012 at 1:10 pm

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