Every year a film comes out that you cannot help but to respect, even if you do not like it all that much and this year that film is Terrence Malik’s The Tree of Life. Malik’s other directorial credits include The Thin Red Line, and The New World. Can a film that is more about cinematography be able to hold the audience’s attention?
It is difficult to explain that exactly this film is about due to its non-linear narrative. However, I will try my best, as far as I can tell this movie tells the story of the O’Brien family and their struggles with a personal tragedy. The father is played by Brad Pitt while the mother is played by Jessica Chastain. The couple has three boys, along with their struggles with the personal tragedy, they have to deal with is the living through tough times during the Great Depression.
The movie than shifts its focus to one of the boys named Jack who is now an adult, played by Sean Penn. Jack also is dealing with the situation in his own way and the audience can see his life story as well. Jack also is having problems getting along with his father for he has always felt that his father hated him.
What sets this film apart is the beauty of its cinematography. Malik shows the audience his views of love and grace. Malik depicts that love exists not just for humans but for nature as well. It really is breathtaking to watch this unfold as well as being able to see earth from its beginnings, well Malik’s view of it. Moreover, those who are religious or have knowledge of the bible will recognize the film’s parallel of the story of Joe. Essentially speaking in the bible God strips Joe of everything to see if his faith will break. In this film that is the concept that Malik is going for. It is both intriguing and wonderful to watch this unfold. The constant wondering and the frequent line of dialogue that reads “Where are you?” This line is referring to why God is allowing this to happen.
Malik’s style of telling a story is something that really held my attention. Even though the film cuts between times Malik manages to always keep the audience on the edge of their seat wondering just how this family is going to cope. Furthermore, another element that works well is the hatred that young Jack has for his father; this all revolves around his father loving one of his brothers more. The father admires this son more because this son shares more of his specific interests and his resemblance in appearance. This leads to Jack seeing his father in him which only adds to his anger.
I can appreciate a slow build up; however, even Malik goes a little far at some points here. The end of this movie does drag a little too much. It can be seen as a little self indulgent because it comes across as Malik admiring his scenery too much. This is a minor problem because the scenery works in every other scene in the film.
This movie like this is not for everyone, if you do not like slow moving films that do not have a lot of action than you will not like this movie. This film really should be mandatory for film students just to show them the cinematography and how editing can used to enhance certain environments. A near perfect film for me.