Movie Review: Tree of Life

Movie Review: Tree of Life

July 30th, 2011  |  YahaWaha Published in Bollywood Movie Reviews  |  157 Comments

THE TREE OF LIFE: A work of Cinematic ART

Rating: 4 out of 5*

Starring: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain & Hunter McCraken

Director: Terrence Malick

By – Saumil Bhanshali

“There are two ways through life: the way of nature and the way of grace,”

First things first, this is a movie unlike anything anyone has ever made. Its less of a movie (dictionary meaning – a narrative seeking to inform/entertain) and more of a vision (dictionary meaning – a series of vivid images open to interpretation).

Terrence Mallick (who incidentally has made only five movies so far ) is less of a story teller and more of a poet in this epic saga of how both brute nature and spiritual grace shape not only our lives as individuals and families, but all life. Saying this movie is indulgent is like comparing the Stanchart Marathon to a stroll in Jogger’s Park. Its an inside-Terrence’s-mind essay on family, remembrance, atonement and above all Nature. Like a painting the movie is gorgeous and abstract at the same time and like a symphony it leaps around in time and space unlike a conventional narrative. In fact it reaches a crescendo very quickly as within 20 minutes the film shifts to a stunning visual representation of the creation of the universe. We go from a spark to the big bang, to the creation of earth, to the age of the dinosaurs, and everything in between. Unlike other films which build up to the big finish, this virtuoso scene comes pretty early. Like someone said it is more ambitious than Mayor A.M.Bitious of Ambitiousville.

Now to the story within the macro picture. Kicking off with a quote from the Book of Job, we meet Mr and Mrs O’Brien (Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain) learning of the death of their 19-year-old son. Elsewhere, the dead boy’s brother Jack (Sean Penn), now middle-aged, tells his dad he thinks about the lad every day, prompting a series of flashbacks to his childhood, set in American suburbia in the 1950’s. This template of Texas family life forms the hub from which various tangents are explored. The vignettes of life in Waco are easily understood but the conclusions are completely random. No two people will feel the same way about the film. “Feel” – that’s the operative word because that’s what the filmmaker hopes his audience will be throbbing with at the end of the 140 odd minute look at existence.

A word of caution though, this is not a “multiplex” film. There maybe less than half an hour of dialogue for the 2 hour plus duration. Although the acting especially of the young boys (Hunter McCracken and Laramie Eppler) is pitch perfect, a point to note is that the Grandmother who appears as the seventh-billing in the credits appears on screen for less than a minute !! The co-stars here are the grass, the trees, the fireflies… Indeed Nature herself. The original music/soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat is awe-inspiring and in sync with the sublime content. Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is one of the biggest assets of the film. But again with the contrast, the movie ends extremely abruptly and the credits in fact roll without any sound. So, the movie is alienating and frustrating yet at the same time (depending on your mood) sumptuous, spiritual and spectacular.

Whether it deserves a Palme D’or not is ,like the movie, open to debate. But this I can say is that its that sort of movie that if you feel bored you’ll feel its your fault !!! (Somewhat allegorical to the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes)

Unlike other movies which encourage you to go and see them with no pre-conceived notions, for this one do go with the knowledge that its going to be tedious and incoherent but no doubt about it – A work of Cinematic ART…

If a ticket at the multiplex costs Rs. 300, this movie is worth at least Rs. 600. Watch it and then watch it again !!! After all on the first viewing the Monalisa may also appear to some as just another woman !!!!

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