Monday 4 July 2011

Another blogger babbles a bit about "Tree Of Life"

Does the film blogging world really need yet another post from someone who finds "The Tree Of Life" both confounding and enthralling and can't quite put their thoughts into cohesive words yet? No, it certainly doesn't. But why should that stop me? Do make sure you read Matt Zoller Seitz's article though - it's terrific. Meanwhile, some random thoughts:

  • I've only seen it once, but will undoubtedly see it again in the theatre soon. My wife is eager to see it, so we'll see what we can swing over the next two weeks. I've been told by many that it "reveals" itself to you better on the second viewing...I suppose that's possible because during the first viewing I was too busy focusing on the pure visual beauty in front of me...Gorgeous beyond what I expected.

  • The 20 minute "creation of the universe" segment was pretty spectacular indeed, but it's the "endless summer" sections that completely overwhelmed my senses. The scenes with the brothers playing were fantastic and so completely evocative of what I used to do as a kid.

  • I've read some people's descriptions of the scene of the two dinosaurs being the first instance of "grace" or mercy since creation (ie. everything that preceded it was purely "nature"). I don't completely agree with that since I saw it as a precursor to the controlling hugs the father gave his boys (e.g. I have power over you), but I like the idea. And I like how the film allows you to find those ideas throughout it.

  • Jessica Chastain's mother character floating in the air next to the tree was a perfect moment - how better for a son to remember his mother as angelic?

  • Brad Pitt’s performance was superb. No, there wasn't a whole lot of dialogue, but I was sold on every loving yet controlling hug he gave his kids. Both the "hit me" scene and the blow up at the family dinner table reminded me of some fathers I had met when I was a kid (fortunately, not my own).

  • The waves of waves - the crashing water, the fluid grass in the wind, the diving camera as it approached the characters (perhaps overused, but no less awesome).

  • It wasn’t a perfect film for me by any means though…I never felt a sense of being connected to these people nor did I feel much emotional weight (except, as stated below, when we see the very young boys growing up). "Days Of Heaven" had that for me, but I didn’t get that here. I’m not sure why though...Was it too much of the opening universe coming into creation? The slightly affected whispering? The ending with Penn that didn’t do anything for me?

  • I “think” I get a lot of the film’s intent – the struggle between nature and grace, loss of innocence, the doubling of those themes between the Waco family and the grander scheme of the universe, etc. all through the recollections of the older Jack during a particularly stressful point of his life – but I’m still not sure how I feel about how Malick put it together. Since he tends to find his films as he edits them, I couldn’t help thinking that he was still searching for “the film”.

  • The most moving and emotional part of the film is without a doubt the early days of the children. The super close up of the baby lying on the ground is fantastic. I don’t know if anyone has ever shot a baby in that fashion before - being that up close, within the very short focal length of a baby’s vision, is where a parent’s face will usually be. The cradling of the foot. Young Jack's interaction with his new baby brother. Learning to walk. I know many films have documented those early stages of a child's life, but having the camera right THERE with the kids was remarkable.

  • I love the feeling of movement the film creates. I really could watch this trailer all day long...

I'm very much looking forward to another viewing. If it doesn't all become crystal clear for me (which I don't really expect nor want), at least I can revel in the wonderful combination of images and music and let the film stir my own recollections.


Davey V said...

Waves! ;)

Davey V said...

Just read the article...that was pretty damn good and that does explain the 2001 shots, Trumbell borrowed from himself!

The Taxi Driver said...

Love this movie and good write up. How do you feel about the rumor that we may be getting a 6 hour version some day.

"Yojimbo_5" said...

I, too, was struck by those intimate baby shots, of "being right THERE" and the connection between this creature and the POV of the person connected it. In a sense, the film chronicles the connection between people and how we lose it...and gain it...again...throught spirit.

Thanks for the article, and inspiring that thought in me.

Bob Turnbull said...

Thanks for the comments!

Dave, yeah I stole the "waves" idea from Aaron, but I don't think it's a unique perception...B-) I don't think I'll be getting back out to see this for a couple of weeks - I hope it sticks around somewhere that long...

Mike, my initial feeling about the 6 hour cut is that we'll never see it. However, if it did exist, I would definitely want to experience it - not sure if I would want to catch it all in one go, but I was never bored once in the 2 hour 18 minute version (even if I didn't completely connect with the characters). Visuals of that nature usually keep me in rapt attention. As wonderful as it would be to see more of that footage, though, I'm not sure how much more he could add to the themes and feeling of the current film - it's already so well positioned to evoke (there's that word again) individual thoughts and feelings. I actually think a shorter cut would be more effective in some ways. But I'd still see that 6 hours...B-)

Yojimbo, I like your point about reconnection through spirit. Though I'm not a religious person by any stretch, I love how Malick brings in the spiritual without necessarily tieing it directly to religion or even God. It kind of feels like he was searching for his own interpretation of spirituality or God as he was searching for his film (which may explain him even considering a 6 hour cut - maybe that would be a good thing...).