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The Tree of Life (2011)

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It often seems Christians, when being described by people who respect but don't necessarily share their faith, are labeled generically as "spiritual." Even if Malick is a follower of Christ, I sort of suspect, given his reclusive and private nature, that even his closest colleagues don't know how to categorize him.

I haven't seen the finished film, which, I have no doubt, departs in some significant ways from what I read, but the rough draft of TREE OF LIFE did have a pretty strongly spiritual-but-not-religious bent, with a conclusion that would overtly seem to counter any sort of orthodox Christian vision of the eschaton (yes, it relies on Christian imagery to an extent, but, somewhat like THE FOUNTAIN, appropriates it towards not-so-Christian ends).

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A few critics I've read have made a point of not spoiling the ending, but of saying that its meaning will be debated.

Now, however, Lou Lumenick (who says Malick's new movie is "not a pretentious bore like his last, 'The New World'" -- make what you will of THAT!) has apparently given away the final scene and offered two of the interpretations that are already out there, one of which is kind of religious but in a way that entrenches my skepticism about the whole "male/nature vs. female/grace" dynamic that the movie seems to be working with.

I haven't seen the finished film, which, I have no doubt, departs in some significant ways from what I read, but the rough draft of TREE OF LIFE did have a pretty strongly spiritual-but-not-religious bent, with a conclusion that would overtly seem to counter any sort of orthodox Christian vision of the eschaton (yes, it relies on Christian imagery to an extent, but, somewhat like THE FOUNTAIN, appropriates it towards not-so-Christian ends).

Interestingly, I just came across Andrew O'Hehir's review, in which he says: "I won't discuss the end of the film, but implausible as this may sound, 'The Tree of Life' may appeal to more adventurous Christian viewers." Of course, we've already discussed O'Hehir and his take on Christian moviegoers in our threads on Secretariat and Soul Surfer, so make of that what you will.

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A few critics I've read have made a point of not spoiling the ending, but of saying that its meaning will be debated.

Now, however, Lou Lumenick (who says Malick's new movie is "not a pretentious bore like his last, 'The New World'" -- make what you will of THAT!) has apparently given away the final scene and offered two of the interpretations that are already out there, one of which is kind of religious but in a way that entrenches my skepticism about the whole "male/nature vs. female/grace" dynamic that the movie seems to be working with.

I haven't seen the finished film, which, I have no doubt, departs in some significant ways from what I read, but the rough draft of TREE OF LIFE did have a pretty strongly spiritual-but-not-religious bent, with a conclusion that would overtly seem to counter any sort of orthodox Christian vision of the eschaton (yes, it relies on Christian imagery to an extent, but, somewhat like THE FOUNTAIN, appropriates it towards not-so-Christian ends).

Interestingly, I just came across Andrew O'Hehir's review, in which he says: "I won't discuss the end of the film, but implausible as this may sound, 'The Tree of Life' may appeal to more adventurous Christian viewers." Of course, we've already discussed O'Hehir and his take on Christian moviegoers in our threads on Secretariat and Soul Surfer, so make of that what you will.

He's not the only one to make such comments. I suspect that the ending of the film is much more ambiguous than the ending of the first draft. In that draft, Malick's narration goes on at length, often elaborating on the meaning of the images, and what Malick's narration suggests isn't exactly in line with the more religious readings of the film.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Manohla Dargis in the [post=http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/17/movies/terrence-malick-asks-big-questions-in-the-tree-of-life.html]NY Times critics' notebook. http://www.nytimes.c...ee-of-life.html (couldn't get the short link to work)

She seems fairly impressed, and muses quite a bit on the rarity of Malick's exploration of big themes, including those of "life and death, God and soul...". I admire that she is talking about this, for mainstream critics often go to great lengths to avoid discussing spiritual implications in film. She does, I think, seem to interpret the film as a vision closer to pantheism than Christianity. As an earlier post stated, though, it may be hard to know what to conclude about this film within a short time after seeing it. I imagine that different viewers will come up with quite varying conclusions on the spiritual meaning/implications of the film. Can't wait to see it.

Edited by Brian D

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Just a note for Vancouver folks: some friends of mine are organizing a small Blu-Ray screening of The New World extended cut this week, as a warm-up for Tree of Life next week (though a look at IMDB shows the Canadian release apprently set for June 10...unsure.gif). PM me if you'd like details.

The thing about these "first hour good, second hour kinda dull" responses is that they pretty much match my reaction to The Thin Red Line, both times I saw that film -- except there, we had TWO good first hours, followed by a dull third hour.

Funny, because after seeing and loving The New World's extended cut last year, I revisited TRL this year only to find it striking me as somewhat dull and shallow in comparison -- until that third hour, when it takes off. smile.gif

Edited by N.W. Douglas

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I saw The Tree of Life this morning in Los Angeles. Since I'm under no embargo, I'm going to post my initial thoughts here. I beg the reader's indulgence. :)

First, the obvious. It's the most sustained reverie Malick has ever attempted and the least wedded to conventional movie narrative. The film is like a single montage--the images sort of plunge into one another spontaneously, as in a dream, and no single shot lingers for more than a few seconds. Whatever style Malick developed in The New World finds its continuation (and perhaps perfection) here. Lubezski's use of available light and wide angle lenses (which often result in bulging closeups of the actors) put everything into crisp focus, engulfing us in nature. The most compelling reason to see it is to literally see it.

The trailer is very true to the overall tenor of the film. The story centers on a boy battling nature (represented by his "hard" father--a tritely conceived character) and grace (embodied by his angelic mother--an equally underdeveloped character) within his soul. Most of the action is set in the kind of town Ray Bradbury is fond of describing and brought to life with the same enraptured detail. In one surreal moment Chastain spontaneously levitates, recalling certain scenes from Tarkovsky (or, if you like, Ang Lee).

The first third of the film is Malick at his most radically experimental. After a brief introduction to a few of the characters we are taken on a prolonged detour through time and space, presumably all the way back to the formation of the earth. Celestial bodies glide through outer space and, at the cellular level, matter organizes itself into animal life. If this entire section could be snipped and transported to a bigger screen it would make a superb IMAX experience.

There are dinosaurs in it. They appear at the tail end of the sequence mentioned above, but only long enough to illustrate Malick's theme of grace triumphant. A young dino finds one of its weakened brethren by a stream and considers crushing its head underfoot. It pauses for a moment, refrains, then wanders off, never to be glimpsed again.

Having revisited Malick's films recently I find myself drawn mysteriously to the coolly detached Badlands and Days of Heaven. I'm still not sure why. There are extraordinarily powerful moments in The Thin Red Line, but the film is also long and repetitious. The New World has its share of visual splendor but for some reason my heart isn't moved by it. One possible theory: Malick returned from his 20-year hiatus an enlightened soul but a weakened storyteller. I believe this deficiency ultimately limits the success of The Tree of Life. It's a bold, dazzling film that keeps alive the possibility of art in American cinema, but divorced from the power of story, it just floats away.

Edited by Nathaniel

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Well, I'm glad I saw the film before reading Nathaniel's post, which spells out a couple of moments that I'm very glad surprised me on the screen.

Edited by Overstreet

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N.W. Douglas wrote:

: Funny, because after seeing and loving The New World's extended cut last year, I revisited TRL this year only to find it striking me as somewhat dull and shallow in comparison -- until that third hour, when it takes off. smile.gif

Fascinating!

(I still haven't seen the third version of The New World, BTW. I'd love to some day, but life is what it is.)

Nathaniel wrote:

: There are dinosaurs in it. They appear at the tail end of the sequence mentioned above, but only long enough to illustrate Malick's theme of grace triumphant. A young dino finds one of its weakened brethren by a stream and considers crushing its head underfoot. It pauses for a moment, refrains, then wanders off, never to be glimpsed again.

I've heard about this elsewhere, too, and I have to say I'm curious as to how "weakened" the second dinosaur is. Like, will it go on to die a slow, painful, agonizing death -- the kind of death that might have made being crushed underfoot somewhat merciful?

: One possible theory: Malick returned from his 20-year hiatus an enlightened soul but a weakened storyteller.

Another possible theory: His producers in the '70s were his bosses, and his producers for the past 15 years have been fans of his who were happy to work with the "legend". Kind of like the difference between the George Lucas of the '70s and the George Lucas of later decades, perhaps.

: It's a bold, dazzling film that keeps alive the possibility of art in American cinema, but divorced from the power of story, it just floats away.

Well, as a fan of Koyaanisqatsi, Fantasia, and a few other non-narrative American films, I'm still keeping an open mind as far as THAT'S concerned. :)

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Having revisited Malick's films recently I find myself drawn mysteriously to the coolly detached Badlands and Days of Heaven.

Yeah, me too. BADLANDS and DAYS OF HEAVEN are tremendous films, but Malick went astray with the more indulgent THE THIN RED LINE and THE NEW WORLD.

: It's a bold, dazzling film that keeps alive the possibility of art in American cinema, but divorced from the power of story, it just floats away.

Well, as a fan of Koyaanisqatsi, Fantasia, and a few other non-narrative American films, I'm still keeping an open mind as far as THAT'S concerned. :)

I don't know that Nathaniel is speaking, here, of TREE OF LIFE's "experimental" nature being a necessarily negative aspect (knowing some of the films he respects, he seems to be quite open to experimental/abstract filmmaking), but that TREE OF LIFE's attempts to deliver a narrative--and it does have a narrative, even if it is somewhat more abstract--are too weak for the film to become a lasting, powerful experience.

To those who have seen TREE OF LIFE and are not under embargo: the script I read ended with the death of the universe and its subsequent rebirth into countless new multiverses, an endless cycle of death and rebirth on cosmic scale. Does the film end that way?

Edited by Ryan H.

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I posted this on Facebook this morning:

While you wait for THE TREE OF LIFE to open, here is a recommended list of films that may be useful as reference points:

- Andrei Tarkovsky's "The Mirror" (or "Zerkalo")

- Terence Davies' "Distant Voices, Still Lives" and "The Long Day Closes"

- Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey"

- Hou Hsiao-hsien's "Flight of the Red Balloon"

- And, of course, Terrence Malick's earlier films.

Any critic who treats Malick's dream-like style - the impressionistic weave of memory and music - as if it's something new or unique to him really, really needs to go watch Terence Davies' memoir movies and Tarkovsky's Mirror.

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indieWire:

Terrence Malick did come to Cannes, even if he didn’t show up for The Tree of Life press conference, having asked Brad Pitt to do his heavy lifting for him. Fox Searchlight did not beg the director to walk the red carpet for the photographers, as did Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt (pictured), but Malick did enter the Palais right before the movie in order to hear the announcer boom the magic words: “L’auteur, Terrence Malick!”—amid thundering standing applause. Per usual, the film played far better than at the press screening, which elicited an equal measure of clapping and boos. At the official screening, Malick won a sustained standing ovation.

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Matt Zoller Seitz (in Tweets):

"Tree of Life": Indescribable and magnificent. Conventional critical strategies are inadequate to grapple with it.

Joycean and Proustian with dollops of Ray Bradbury. Tons to savor no matter who you are, but it will hit Texans especially hard.

More later on "ToL," maybe next week. Bottom line: Majestic, original, at times so personal I could hardly bear to watch it.

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Well, I'm glad I saw the film before reading Nathaniel's post, which spells out a couple of moments that I'm very glad surprised me on the screen.

I think Jeffrey is very graciously hinting that there are big-ass spoilers in my review. I think it would behoove everyone to approach this thread with caution now that the film is finally making the rounds. :)

Any critic who treats Malick's dream-like style - the impressionistic weave of memory and music - as if it's something new or unique to him really, really needs to go watch Terence Davies' memoir movies and Tarkovsky's Mirror.

These are great suggestions! I truly cannot wait to read your review.

I've heard about this elsewhere, too, and I have to say I'm curious as to how "weakened" the second dinosaur is. Like, will it go on to die a slow, painful, agonizing death -- the kind of death that might have made being crushed underfoot somewhat merciful?

At first, I thought the stronger dinosaur was just being a jerk. The other one was sort of lying on the rocks without any visible wounds or anything. Right there on the floor there. Just lying there. [/Burn After Reading reference] Then I figured that it was a mercy killing situation and that the stronger one was demonstrating grace. Personally, I think the sequence was confusing and entirely extraneous. But I'm not Terrence Malick.

I don't know that Nathaniel is speaking, here, of TREE OF LIFE's "experimental" nature being a necessarily negative aspect (knowing some of the films he respects, he seems to be quite open to experimental/abstract filmmaking), but that TREE OF LIFE's attempts to deliver a narrative--and it does have a narrative, even if it is somewhat more abstract--are too weak for the film to become a lasting, powerful experience.

I think you've understood me perfectly, Ryan. But I think I need to be clearer on one point: The Tree of Life is an amazing experience, and those are few and far between. I wouldn't dream of dissuading people from seeing it.

To those who have seen TREE OF LIFE and are not under embargo: the script I read ended with the death of the universe and its subsequent rebirth into countless new multiverses, an endless cycle of death and rebirth on cosmic scale. Does the film end that way?

There is a scene on a beach that suggests heaven, or perhaps limbo. All the characters are present and look very happy. And the film is bookended by shots of a kind of aurora, although I'm not enough of a science guy to be more specific than that. If there's anything resembling the scene you describe above, Ryan, then I completely missed it!

Best to go in as fresh and innocent of spoilers as possible. I know that's extremely difficult if you've read the script (ahem), but bear in mind that Malick's films tend to resemble their scripts very little.

Edited by Nathaniel

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Very much looking forward to tonight's screening. At least I'll be able to get my own response on the table without worrying about further prejudicing by other responses.

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Nathaniel wrote:

: I think Jeffrey is very graciously hinting that there are big-ass spoilers in my review.

Well, there wasn't anything there that I hadn't already seen in official reviews, for whatever that's worth. Indeed, it sounds like you gave away considerably less than you could have.

: Personally, I think the sequence was confusing and entirely extraneous. But I'm not Terrence Malick.

Maybe the dinosaur had its part cut down in post-production. Kind of like Adrien Brody in The Thin Red Line or Sean Penn in this film. :)

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But I think I need to be clearer on one point: The Tree of Life is an amazing experience, and those are few and far between. I wouldn't dream of dissuading people from seeing it.

Oh, I didn't get that vibe from you. Just that TREE OF LIFE wasn't what you would regard as a Masterpiece of Masterpieces.

There is a scene on a beach that suggests heaven, or perhaps limbo. All the characters are present and look very happy. And the film is bookended by shots of a kind of aurora, although I'm not enough of a science guy to be more specific than that. If there's anything resembling the scene you describe above, Ryan, then I completely missed it!

Sounds like Malick altered the ending, then. The ending you speak of existed in the script I read in some form, but there were other things going on, and that scene didn't close things out.

Best to go in as fresh and innocent of spoilers as possible. I know that's extremely difficult if you've read the script (ahem), but bear in mind that Malick's films tend to resemble their scripts very little.

I'm aware, and TREE OF LIFE's production was said to be highly improvised. That said, there hasn't been a single image from the trailers or otherwise that has put me off-guard. Most of what we've seen in the advertising, at least, seems straight out of that first draft script. So I'm guessing Malick didn't completely change gears from that early version of the film.

Maybe the dinosaur had its part cut down in post-production. Kind of like Adrien Brody in The Thin Red Line or Sean Penn in this film. :)

FWIW, in the draft I read, Penn's part was still pretty small. It might be smaller in the finished film, for all I know, but it seems like he was never meant to be a big part of the story. And I don't recall the dinosaur getting a significant mention in the script, either. Maybe a line or two.

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Ryan H. wrote:

: FWIW, in the draft I read, Penn's part was still pretty small. It might be smaller in the finished film, for all I know, but it seems like he was never meant to be a big part of the story. And I don't recall the dinosaur getting a significant mention in the script, either. Maybe a line or two.

Well, I was joking about the dinosaur. But Jeffrey Wells floated the rumour earlier today -- which he heard from "a trusted source" -- that "Sean Penn's part in The Tree of Life, which is barely there with maybe ten lines of dialogue, if that, was fairly substantial in earlier cuts, but like Adrien Brody's character in The Thin Red Line, it was gradually cut down to nothing." He goes on to suggest that this may be partly why Penn didn't take part in the Tree of Life press conference even though he's at Cannes.

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The thing about these "first hour good, second hour kinda dull" responses is that they pretty much match my reaction to The Thin Red Line, both times I saw that film -- except there, we had TWO good first hours, followed by a dull third hour.

Funny, because after seeing and loving The New World's extended cut last year, I revisited TRL this year only to find it striking me as somewhat dull and shallow in comparison -- until that third hour, when it takes off. smile.gif

Ha! My experience has been almost the exact opposite. I was intoxicated with The New World when i first saw it, and rather disappointed with The Thin Red Line. Having returned to both films, multiple times, I can say that my TNW-love diminished greatly and TTRL ascended mightily. I have also since come to love the third hour of TTRL and find it an ideal emotional payoff for the first two hours.

I can't wait to see Tree of Life and have been avoiding reviews like the plague...

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I continue to be intrigued by the way various critics have lined up on this film, and what it says about their perspectives on Malick's previous films. E.g., Kyle Smith @ New York Post:

Some of Malick’s films strike me as more lethargic than beautiful, particularly “The New World,” but to me “The Tree of Life” is a big comeback that will justly inspire much fulsome praise and fervid discussion about its ultimate conclusion. I expect it to be the art film of the summer, if not the year.

Karina Longworth @ LA Weekly:

. . . before the negative response to the film from some of my colleagues calcifies and liking this movie starts to look like a deliberately oppositional stance, let me state for the record that while I have questions and reservations, I am on Team Tree of Life.

If the film is, structurally, a kind of creation-destruction-rebirth triptych julienned to blur the distinction between personal biography and metaphysical history, then I'm most excited by the tension between the milky stream of imagery that people seem to be calling "the cosmos stuff," and the primary, mid-century family narrative built around Brad Pitt's alternately terrifying and touching performance as the center-of-the-universe style patriarch.

I'm slightly more troubled by the execution of the framing story featuring Sean Penn as Pitt's son grown up into minimalist mid-life misery. Full of low angles even more extreme than those employed in The New World, the camera ostensibly pointed towards the place "where God lives" but slanted for total disorientation, this element is both boldly shorn of key narrative detail -- which can be thrilling -- and also tends toward the most apparently facile visual symbolism -- which sometimes seems to stall Malick's transcendent flow of ideas and imagery.

Robert Koehler @ Film Journey (i.e. Doug Cummings' blog):

Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life begins, all too appropriately, with a yolk-colored blob. Like a scientist’s experiment which has been fussed over until it’s lost its original hypothesis (let alone any proof), Malick’s new film is the work of a man who has so overthought his material that it has flipped, and become underthought, a welter of contradictory ideas, a toxic brew of literalism and spiritualism, an acid trip without the necessary acid. He has turned a chamber piece about a Texas family in the post-war era into a bloated behemoth. He has fatally forgotten the wisdom that in the specific lies the universal, and instead imposes an entirely unearned universal construct on top of a small story that should have a running time of no more than 80 minutes, rather than its entirely unjustifiable 137-minute length–a marker of uncontrolled hubris.

I noted in my review in Cinema Scope of Malick’s previous film, The New World, that the key to understanding his cinema is that he’s a birder. This does not apply to The Tree of Life, although there may be more actual birds on screen in the new work. It would be good to report that the key lies in Malick’s previous life (before he became a film director with Badlands in 1973) as a lecturer in philosophy at MIT, where he specialized in Heidegger. The Tree of Life is replete with philosophy, to be sure; oh, my, is it ever, all of it stated, as with every verbal utterance on the soundtrack (most of which are delivered in a nearly inaudible whispered voiceover by the various characters), absolutely and firmly on the nose. But the philosophy is now confused, amorphous, cosmic, furry-headed variations on the now-old New Age movement. Indeed, that would be a better title for the opus: The New Age. . . .

As Jack grows up, he develops an antipathy toward his father, whom we are told quite bluntly early on represents ”the way of nature,” while mother represents “the way of grace.” (In Malick’s philosophical construct, “nature” is bad, imposing, arrogant; ”grace” is “never having to justify one’s self.” More on this slice of intellectual nonsense later.) . . .

From some closely similar music cues and planetary and prehistoric images to its leaps in time and space, this other film simply and openly begs comparison with Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. So, let’s compare. The narrative leap out of the family film into the dinosaur film is not the kind of leap made by 2001’s Moon Watcher ape tossing his bone weapon into the air and transforming in cinema’s greatest edit to a spaceship; there’s no expressive or meaningful transition, but rather, a seemingly arbitrary cut that may have just as well happened sooner or later. The montage of astronomical, geologic, geographic and underwater images that follow in some ways closely parallel the opening montage of primordial landscapes in “The Dawn of Man” sequence in 2001, but they soon have the feeling of a montage in an IMAX film presented in a science park, missing only Morgan Freeman’s narration explaining the development of life on earth. (Perhaps the only spot in The Tree of Life in which voice-over does not occur.) They also indicate a critical problem with the visual nature of Malick’s film, which is that the images are discrete unto themselves, picturesque rather than cinematic, producing the sensation of flipping through pages in a coffee-table photography book (or, in the case of Jack’s family, pictures in the album of a family we don’t know). . . .

The Tree of Life begins with a quotation from the Book of Job (Chapter 38, verses 4 and 7, in which God puts Job in his place), and references Job’s trials with God later during a pastor’s sermon. Nods to God and Job and references and quotations do not, however, by themselves earn meaning. Nor does a train of images early on of the family grieving over news of the son’s death conjure up a Job-like struggle. A detectable pattern emerges: Ideas are stated, and then not explored in cinematic terms. Worse: the ideas contradict one another. Take the matter of grace vs. nature, which Malick clearly intends as his central dialectic. The ways in which these two states of mind/existence are defined by Malick has little to do with any recognizable view of either. Grace is typically associated with either the comforting power of a supreme being, or in Malick’s Pantheistic view, an equilibrium between humans and nature. As for Nature, philosophers have clashed for centuries over it’s essential meaning, ranging from the kind of anthropomorphism dramatized by Malick with his dinos or poets’ use of “the pathetic fallacy” to a more scientific view that sees Nature as an amoral process of birth, life, death, decay and regeneration–the view, if you will, of “2001.” But Malick has wholly confused his terms. Two direct literary influences on The Tree of Life are William Faulkner and D. H. Lawrence; Faulkner for his fracturing of narrative into a stream-of-consciousness, better to convey the unstructured momentum of inner thought and emotions, and for his fascination with the eternal battle between fathers and sons; Lawrence for his concern with the conflict between what he viewed as ”nature” and “will.” Mr. O’Brien is a purely Lawrencian character, which Malick proceeds to utterly misread. Rather than representing nature (that would actually be Mrs. O’Brien, who’s constantly depicted outdoors, under the trees, walking barefoot in the grass, dipping her toes in water), Mr. O’Brien is pure will, and he states it as such in a few lines of dialogue while advising his sons on the cruel ways of the world. His entire character can be viewed as a man trying to exert his will on his sons to follow in his path; the middle son’s interest in music draws him closer to the father, who regrets aborting his own music studies (now channeled into some organ playing of Bach and record-spinning of Brahms and other composers at home), and which seems to spur Jack’s jealousy. This is not nature, but it’s opposite, the human forces impinging themselves upon nature, exactly as Lawrence viewed it. . . .

The tragedy of The Tree of Life is the film itself, a project of such profound importance to the filmmaker that he worked on concepts and images for it ever since he’s been a filmmaker–nearly 38 years. He clearly based the family story on his own memories growing up in Texas as a boy in the late 1940s and 1950s, and this is best preserved on film in the many wonderful, Wyeth-like moments of rambunctious boys playing indoors and out, having fun for the sake of it. (The sole moments of anything like lightness in a film utterly devoid of humor, irony or inference.) He sweated out several 200-page drafts, and when producer Bill Pohlad told him a decade ago that his script contained two films that weren’t joined into one, he worked on it some more, making The New World in the interim. It’s now clear that Pohlad’s criticism was precisely on point; what hardly makes any sense is why the film was subsequently funded and produced when the very problem Pohlad defined was never resolved. Like the New Age itself, The Tree of Life is an aspirational quest that can’t come full circle, since it never determines what it is in the first place, and concludes as a cinema con.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Rosenbaum has re-posted his reviews of Badlands and The Thin Red Line, "two Malick films that I like much more than The Tree of Life".

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Thanks for sharing Koehler's comments. They're the most robust response to THE TREE OF LIFE that I've seen so far. And I say that not because his thoughts are exactly the kind of thoughts I had when reading the early draft of TREE OF LIFE, but because it's the first one I've seen that seriously attempts to grapple with the ideas at its center. I hope as some of the supporters who haven't yet weighed in build their reviews, they've had a chance to engage Koehler's commentary.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Interesting read on the film by Koehler. I'll need to view his responses a few more times though (and see the film myself) before I can fully absorb what he's trying to say in his argument. He seems to have a problem I've noted in other criticisms of the film: namely that Malick leaves questions hanging, rather than coming full circle and answering them. Well, for me, that's the elliptical nature of a Terrence Malick film I find most rewarding.

This Koehler quote jumped out at me: "...They also indicate a critical problem with the visual nature of Malick’s film, which is that the images are discrete unto themselves, picturesque rather than cinematic, producing the sensation of flipping through pages in a coffee-table photography book (or, in the case of Jack’s family, pictures in the album of a family we don’t know). . . ."

Really? "Cinematic" in a conventionally serial way? I don't think it matters twopence if images become discrete unto themselves. It's what those images evoke that matter. And if Koehler's main objections are structural -- the coffee table book problem -- he should have a look at Chris Marker's LA JETEE.

Edited by Mark T. Ingham

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