Monday, December 05, 2011

Tree of Life - Film Review

The Tree of Life won the Palme D'Or prize at Cannes, so I sat down with a bottle of chardonnay and figured I'd give it a whirl. It begins with an almost whispered (a recurrent theme in this film) soliloquy on grace (accepting insults, forgiving, loving) versus nature (self-involved, wanting it my way, struggle). We're in the 50's with Brad Pitt and his wife, we learn they lost a child. Then we're 2011 and Sean Penn is the brother of the one who died, and so far I'm following along although it's non-linear, features a window motif and artsy pans up into tree branches until suddenly it's a nature film.

Jellyfish. Canyons. Horizons. A wobbling underwater creature that looks like a flying vagina. And then, I swear they were in there, dinosaurs! I thought either the disc was damaged or someone spiked my wine. I went to shut it off and give up on what I determined to be piece of cinematic masturbation, picturing as I did the self-important snobs at Cannes roundly applauding as they turn to one another, tearfully nodding in silent assurance that they, and only they, understand implicitly the nobility of such an undertaking.

But instead of shutting it off, I had a huge gulp of wine. Maybe a few gulps of wine.

And when I got over my need for narrative or the built-in desire for a story to be specific, I allowed the film to be a mood. When the credits rolled and it read, "Written and Directed by Terrence Malick" I was confused because it didn't feel like there was any writing. It felt like a humble session of therapy. A religious experience that reminded me (in a meaningful way) that nothing matters in the grand scheme. It became an ode to existence, a hymn to eternity.

I recommend this film to anyone who had a child die, or anyone with a bottle of chardonnay to kill. 


Tony said...

Hey Jesse -

I saw Tree of Life in its first run in a movie theater without benefit of preemptive vinous inoculation.
I liked it.
A few people got up and walked out about 1/3 through, but I figure they missed a linear story line, or didn't like the fertilization and womb sequence in the "nature" part of the film.
But you're right that the film says that in the grand scheme of things, life goes on with or without us.
Definitely worthwhile movie.
I did go out and have a few glasses of vino afterwards, though.

Jesse Archer said...

Tony, wait... there was a WOMB sequence? !

Tony said...

Yeah -

Part way through the nature imagery they show sperm swimming around and eventually a fetus. Reminded me of the ending sequence of "2001 a Space Odyssey."
The Chardonnay must have got you past that un-traumatized.