The Tree of Life (2011) – The Idiosyncratic of Terrence Malick

It’s very difficult to compare which films deserve a huge appreciation and which ones don’t. Depending on the judgment of each person, the film doesn’t mean that it must be viewed from the biased way alone. But, it’s just about how you experience such a movie. Terrence Malick, maybe for some people, is a bit foreign. His love, in all of his movies, always glorifies the majesty of nature. However, he also gave his audience various kinds of ambiguous questions. One of them was “The Thin Red Line“, about an ambiguous point of view of the various people who participated in the war. They thought about what the war really was. The movie doesn’t focus much on the war itself but it is how nature unconsciously engages in it.

Having the opportunity to take part in the Cannes Film Festival, “The Tree of Life” won Palme d’Or. The movie divides into two types of people: some like this movie but some don’t. Cheers are scattered with a sneer. It’s hard to say whether this film actually tells. It’s based on a Bible, Genesis 3: 22-24, about a Garden of Eden whose fruit imparts eternal life. Just like the life of Jack O’Brien (Sean Penn and Hunter McCracken), in the process of maturing and succeeded in touching the true meaning of life, God, and the world. But, there is an artistic essence of why this film is so, highly praised by critics. The audience didn’t really touch it so much.

As Roger Ebert said, “The Tree of Life” is a Malick fierce evocation of human feeling and the boldness of vision to Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Like Kubrickian, this film tells the story using the language of images. The experience is like watching natural documentaries but without David Attenborough, our narrator is Terrence Malick. This film is like a poem, taking slick angles, a dynamic camera movement, and a religious touch like witnessing everything in this Earth. It’s very different viewing practice that makes the life of the O’Brien family live normally, like a family.

The movie starts by quoting the verse Job 38: 4-7, confirming the gap between God and Job. Malick only quoted two verses, not sequentially. The first verse emphasizes Job’s role in the creation of the universe while the second verse emphasizes God’s creation before the so-greatness of Job he had no reason to exalt himself. In this case, Job itself was a reflection of Jack’s life, which tried to question the meaning of life to God and find out the existence of God. Interacting with each other, the reveal itself uses an initial sequence of everything to the end. Adult Jack tries to find evidence of God’s own existence in a desert to witness the formation of a galaxy and dig up his small memories.

Through this chronicle, Jack tells the process of growing and developing along with his two younger brothers. From birth, walking, swimming, playing, interacting, seeing criminals, understanding life, learning about loss, death, rebellion, curiosity, the true meaning of family, and so on. Very minimal dialogue in this film and only relies on the power of sequences and cameras. The actor, even Sean Penn, doesn’t even know what he was doing. Jack lived with his parents, Brad Pitt as Mr. O’Brien or nature and Jessica Chastain as Mrs. O’Brien or grace. His father had a strong attitude, very disciplined, obedient to the rules, and very religious. He even told his children to call him “Sir” and couldn’t interrupt the words of him before they could speak.

His mother is more gentle, compassionate, and understands the patterns of mind of his children. However, they were both shown to have more affection for their children. Even though Jack hated his father very much, even telling God why he didn’t just die, he finally understood what he really had and so did his father. The same is true with his mother who taught them to think critically but in a gentle way. The movie is an experience, you could just say, something that’s so personal to most of us. Melancholy arises, trying to recall our memories with parents, how we were born, treated with affection, become teenagers, go to school, and step on maturity.

The cast is amazing. There is Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn, and the main stage, Hunter McCracken. “The Tree of Life” presents a sequence of formation and evolution occurs on Earth. With such Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography, Alexandre Desplat’s score, it was very difficult for me to turn my eyes to see this natural wonder of God’s creation. It’s so breathtakingly beautiful, regardless of how many sequences this was, not a little adversity feels disturbed. Absurd, surreal, yet magnificent, especially the afterlife sequence when everyone is reunited. One of my favorite shots is when Jessica Chastain just walks over to the sun and the movement is just gorgeous. I repeated the scene to feel how beautiful the movement from the cinematographer and actress did it.

“The Tree of Life” has many artistic shots but not just shots. The shot symbolizes the meaning in each scene and is a reflection of the life of the main character. Like a branching tree, combined in a large tree of life, there is a grace and nature. The depiction in “The Tree of Life” indeed a very diverse I can see this film as a slice of life film about the maturation. This movie is a cinematic experience, you’ve to watch it yourself directly.

Nevertheless, this movie is a unique and amazing experience. “The Tree of Life” is a movie about such things, about maturity, nature, sincerity, God, emotions, family, remorse, forgiveness, death, and others. Presented with artistic patterns, this is like an experimental film. Like listening to Radiohead songs or else. It’s a rare experience, a rare cinema, so much specialness in this film and I expect films like this again. This movie is just too personal for us.

5 out of 5 stars.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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