Wednesday, 3 August 2011

“The Tree of Life”, narcissistic drivel or masterpiece?

Terrence Malick's long awaited The Tree of Life has finally arrived to my local cinema, and I was deeply disappointed.

I see it, simply and mostly, as propaganda for some spurious pseudo religious, spiritual and philosophical ideology, a long section of it being imagery that some would call beautiful, which I thought that were ultimately banal, images which have become cliched by overuse, the cinematic equivalent of coffee table books. Frankly, I nearly fell asleep during that long section. I am aware that there has been a debate in the United States about slow cinema. The Tree of Life is not slow cinema, is just plainly banal. It wears its colours from the very beginning, with the declaration that life goes either the way of nature, or the way of grace. Excuse me, but the world is much more complex than that.

Once I got through this pseudo-philosophical section, characterized by banal and meaningless images, I am aware that I am repeating myself here, a story of disappointment came through, a story that opposes Jack (Sean Penn) with his stern, at times brutal, father (Brad Pitt), growing up in suburbia land in Mid America in the 50s. However, very little has been added to the exploration of the conflicts harbouring behind the white clap boarded homes of the American Dream. A man, Jack, wandering through tower blocks and middle America searching for meaning in his life? Sofia Coppola did this much better in her Golden Lion awarded Somewhere.

Adding a voice over full of pseudo philosophical drivel and banal imagery does not make a film better, this is the lesson of The Tree of Life. It is the kind of work that gives arthouse cinema a bad name.

As an afterthought, I had to see that the performances by the children are superb, Malick was able to enter into a childhood world.

Malick's Badlands is still one of my favourite films of all times. I don't think I will see his next one, as I do not want to be disappointed by a master fallen from grace. The Tree of Life masterpiece is not.

Director: Terrence Malick
Cast: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain

The long awaited latest from Terrence Malick, the acclaimed director of such classic films as Badlands, Days Of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, is finally here.

The Tree Of Life is the impressionistic story of a Midwestern family in the 1950’s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith. Through Malick’s signature imagery, we see how both brute nature and spiritual grace shape not only our lives as individuals and families, but all life.

Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Venue: UK wide

Still and trailer © 20th Century Fox

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