Posted on 2/18/12 07:39 PM
This is my rundown of the variety of Oscar-nominated films I've happened to catch this year.
Plot is for posers. Craft is for closers.
Seriously though, it's certainly difficult to wrap one's head around such an exhaustive survey of human emotion as this, nothing less than the axis of innocence and experience running throughout the cosmic stream from macrocosmic creation (Universe) to the microcosmic creation (Child). We wander upon a middle-aged man, miserable in his pristine urban comforts within a desert of glass, like an anti-septic for the soul. What forces have sculpted this isolation from essence?
This film is more of a poem by Lorca, or Pound, or Rumi. It has the momentum of a symphony, whether Beethoven or Mahler or Stravinsky. It follows the elliptical logic of Joyce, Borges, or Carroll. When you hear people talk about 'unfilmable novels', they're usually referring to the richly textured psychological themes underlining the plot. To film them, most directors sacrifice this content to focus on plot. Malick disposed the plot to focus exclusively on the psychic thematic trajectory of an evolving conscience, from protoplasmic perogatives to the first glimpses of reptilian awareness of mortality and mercy, and finally to humans, so smart we think we're independant of nature, and this Oedipal sense of separation is the source of suffering.
I mention all those names to elicit yawns from those who may be better off watching something else. You can call that 'elitest' but I can hardly apologize for being aware of the artistic work of the above named, and for understanding intimately the meaning and value of their respective works. It's difficult to describe color to the blind. I truly don't find myself superior in comprehension than anyone else, but I can't ignore what is clear as light. Many people don't have the time or inclination for these things, and you'll find no shortage of peers to agree with you. In the end, there's no need to sweat these things. You certainly don't have to, and most people don't want to. I have no expectation this film will win a single Oscar. It already has the Golden Palm, and that was tough enough.
I just want to make an additional point concerning the ending of the film. SInce it's admittedly plotless, I suppose the spoiler alert would be irrelevent, but so be it. It was the ending that elicited the handful of 'boo's at Cannes. I've heard critics refer to it as a representation of the afterlife, as a Rapture, and similar things. I cannot appreciate this interpretation, but I can see how it may rub people the wrong way. "Melancholia" is probably a better film for those who are immune to a spiritual reality beyond the material one. But, seeing as no one dies at the end of "Tree", not Sean Penn, not Brad Pitt, nor anyone else, it seems like a leap of judgement to then conclude that the scene represents anything like Heaven, itself a somewhat materialistic oversimplification of spiritual destiny. Rather the end is pure symbolism, like a dream, nothing more than an archetypical representation of the same Oedipal reconcilliation that sent us on this journey to begin with.
If anyone fell asleep while reading this, I hear there's an awesome show about zombies on AMC.