The Tree of Life Reviews
February 27, 2012
By Ben Kuettel
The Tree of Life
After hearing about the plot of The Tree of Life and the extreme reactions to it, I was naturally intrigued to see it. Almost everyone I asked said it was good but had a lot of problems, mostly people just told me they had mixed feelings about it. Last weekend, I finally saw it. The plot is practically nonexistent. It is purposefully confusing, and for some reason, it has the need to splice nature and galaxy clips in between the action, complete with whispered voiceovers and operatic music. It almost feels like two plots meshed into one. In one, we see a nature program about the evolution of life, while the other has three brothers terrorized by their overly stern father, played by Brad Pitt.
The movie is of course too busy showing us galaxies and CGI dinosaurs to actually make any effort in the beginning to introduce or establish any of the characters or their motivations. This makes the sequences with the family seem questionable and leaves the audience asking, ‚Where did this come from?‚? While the plot deals with a stern father and his rebelling children, most of the footage is actually just of the children playing. There will be up to ten straight minutes of the brothers doing nothing but running around in a field. These scenes add nothing to the story and drag on painfully slowly. By the end, the audience is left questioning what they just saw and what exactly the point of it is. The real message always remains hazy and undefined.
The entire film plays out to distance the audience rather than to engage them in what is happening. I have a love for psychological, surreal, mind-bending movies (The Machinist, Eraserhead, The Seventh Seal, The Fountain, Donnie Darko, etc.) but all of them succeed where this movie fails. Movies can‚(TM)t be made with a theme and a plot of only life. Every movie is about life. There has to be a real story to it. Dazzling visuals and shots of nature edited together with whispering, then showing children playing, just isn‚(TM)t enough. It also doesn‚(TM)t help that The Tree of Life thinks it‚(TM)s the best movie ever made. It is pretentious, obnoxious, and self-indulgent. It manipulates the audience, which honestly, can sometimes be a good thing when done right. But when the audience is cheated and repelled from a disjointed, half-executed plot and scenes ripped off from the BBC series Planet Earth with no connection to each other ‚" this is where The Tree of Life fails.
A particular line from The Tree of Life caught me and seems important to share: ‚If you have nothing important to say, don‚(TM)t say anything at all.‚? If only Terrence Malick had asked himself this question, he probably wouldn‚(TM)t have been able to make the movie. The Tree of Life shows us a lot but makes no attempts to say anything about it. The beauty of nonlinear plots is watching all the pieces of the puzzle come together in a satisfying and usually confusing conclusion (ex. Inception, Memento, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). But The Tree of Life never pulls any of it together. It begins as a shattered mess of visuals and symbols and remains that way by the time the credits start rolling.
The film in my opinion focuses on creation in general with the juxtaposition of the creation of the earth & a child itself.
This is by no means entertainment but very deep & thought provoking. Sensational performance by Jessica Chastain who is a shinning star. Also terrific performances by the young boys..Terrence Malik has directed a beautiful film.