This one’s a Must-See!

Munificient; simply awe-inspiring

Mr. Obrein looks at the foot of his newborn son.

Terrence Malick was gone for 20 years after he made Days of Heaven and Badlands; no one was entirely sure what he was up to all that time, but he nevertheless returned in 1998 with The Thin Red Line. Now he continues his moviemaking with my most anticipated film this year – The Tree of Life. I believe I have found his ultimate masterpiece.

There is something truly special about this film – a profound, wonderful film that touched me unlike any film has touched me before and with beauty like none I expect from movies these days.

Early in its runtime, the film depicts the beginning of everything; the creation of the Universe, galaxies, worlds, mountains, lands, microscopic creatures and so on and so forth, all set to the wonderful ‘Lacrimosa’ by Zbigniew Preisner. This sequence certainly makes one think. The microscopic footage looks much like the creation of the Universe-footage. How small do you suppose we (this Universe) are in comparison to something even greater? How insignificant are our problems and struggles through the eyes of whomever may be watching us? An astonishingly gorgeous sequence indeed.

We’re also treated with a view of how the world may have looked when dinosaurs existed. This, of course, brings to mind 2001: A Space Odyssey which started out by showing us another world before man: that of our relatives, the apes.

The plot focuses on the O’Brein-family. It is established early in the film that one of the brothers die and another, Jack, grows up to become a hard-working but depressed Sean Penn. It takes a short while before one figures out which is which.  Brad Pitt is Mr. O’Brein; he is strict, somewhat harsh and disciplinarian and follows the way of nature through Life. Jessica Chastain is Mrs. O’Brein; she is kind, understanding and gentle and follows the way of grace through Life. The two parents are different in how they raise their children, which is why the boys eventually get sick of the way their father treats them and even cheers while he is out on business, leaving them alone for a while.

Mrs. O’Brein in one of Jack’s visions.

The early years of Jack’s childhood are skipped through rather quickly, almost like a montage. We see him learn to walk, to speak, to identify objects and to read, spliced together with images of random locations. This makes sense to me. Jack remembers his early years much like I do – I see images of things I have done and places I have been, but I never remember full moments, only certain bits. Jack seems to do the same.

This is a film which I doubt my review will do justice. It is a magnificent tribute to Life itself, that any indivdual pondering on things such as infinty, higher powers and the incomprehensible size of the Universe should check out, but as you watch it you are no doubt also going to reflect on certain moments from your childhood – memories you may want to repress, or memories you wish you could go back to and stay there forever; memories of how your parents occasionally would snap; memories of sudden hate towards your siblings every now and then; memories from the time when the future seemed ever so distant and infinite and all you had to worry about was getting bruises while playing outside or getting in trouble with your parents.

It saddens me that not all will appreciate or understand The Tree of Life. It works best, I think, if one sees the similarities between the childhoods of the O’Brein-children and his/her own childhood. Some things I couldn’t relate to – my father was never so harsh, I did not grow up in the suburbs but on the country side, I did not grow up in the 50’s, I was not forced to believe in God etc. etc. – but still it made me think of my past. I went to see this film with a very dear friend, not certain what she would think. “It was wonderful,” she said, thankfully, “but the ending was odd”. The ending is indeed a bit strange and I’d be lying if I said I fully understood it.

The Universe takes its form.

Nevertheless, the film is excellent. Poetic in its writing, artistic in its cinematography and visuals, profound in its entirety. The music is lovely, the acting is great, the directing is well done; The Tree of Life is simply a beautiful, thought-provoking and  awe-inspiring film. It deserves its Palme d’Or and hopefully wins the Oscar for Best Picture.

Lastly, I am eternally grateful that the local theater made the wise decision to finally show this movie, which I thought they never would do. Seeing this film on the big screen is precisely what I’ve long wished for. I hope others will love it as much as I did.

5/5 whatever