Jump to content

The Tree of Life (2011)


Overstreet
 Share

Recommended Posts

  • Replies 687
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Ryan H. wrote:

: So this is the film that disappoints the Malick lovers and appeals to the Malick haters?

Heh. Yeah, I've been noticing something similar, too.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ryan H. wrote:

: So this is the film that disappoints the Malick lovers and appeals to the Malick haters?

Heh. Yeah, I've been noticing something similar, too.

FWIW, I prefer to think it's a film that has some lovers and haters, just as previous Malick films had their lovers and haters.

As I've had to explain to several people lately, I love The New World: It's on my list of five favorite films. I admire The Thin Red Line and Days of Heaven, but I doubt they'd be among my top 40 or 50. I've just seen Badlands for the first time, and thought it was a solid narrative film that showed us the early emergence of Malick's style. But I've been alarmed to have given the impression that I'm considered a fanboy based on the fact that I relate to his style and love one of his movies.

It's obvious that there are some critics out there are inclined to celebrate whatever Malick does as long as he does "that Malick thing." But I didn't feel compelled to declare May as "Malick Month" or spend blog posts devoted to detailing the minutiae that we know about him. (He's very protective of his privacy, and I'd prefer to honor that by avoiding speculation and gossip about what may or may not be true about his private life.)

But I think that it's likely to complicate our discussion if we simplify things into Malick lovers and haters. We certainly wouldn't do that with Woody Allen or Steven Spielberg, since the majority of film critics have pitched their tents a fair distance from either of those extremes.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Does anyone have any thoughts on this opinion from Glenn Kenny?

...one isn't entirely sure of the place Pitt's character occupies in life. Is he an aspiring inventor trying to sell his patents the world over, or is he a dedicated laborer who never missed a day of work in his adult life? Or is he both, or is he two distinct alternating characters, and if so, what's that mean?

It never occurred to me that Pitt might be playing two distinct characters at all. And I find that highly unlikely. But I'll be watching more closely next time.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Victor Morton is tweeting up a storm. He loves it. Gives it a 9, where he says that The Thin Red Line and The New World *combined* only merited a 5.

Yeah yeah ... I knew that in the words of the great philosopher Ricardo Ricardo, I got some splainin to do.

I think why I liked TREE OF LIFE so much, while so disliking his previous two films, is that TREE seems properly structured, rooted ::whistling2::, not leaving you wandering around trying to figure out what this is all about, why am I watching *this* *now.* I'll need to look at it a second time to be sure but it seems the opening title card makes the whole thing astonishingly simple.

I think Malick has reconfigured the Book of Job as a stream-of-conscious novel, sort of how Joyce reconfigured THE ODYSSEY. Malick uses all kinds of Biblical motifs without being tied down to a straight-down-the-line allegory/transposition (e.g., Jessica Chastain is photographed and characterized as if she were Blessed Virgin Herself, though her son isn't The Son) because it's as much a memory piece as a cosmology.

The film's first "movement" sets up the conventional Job/theodicy question -- why do we suffer? The second movement is God's cosmic answer -- "Where wast thou when I laid up the foundations of the earth?" (in the Douay-Reims rendition; don't remember which translation Malick used for the first part of his opening title card) rendered cinematically as a Creation story. The third movement is the subjective memories of a discontented modern Catholic man (Penn) going through a spiritual reconciliation with his boyhood paternal resentments, which the memories themselves are the progressive record of (is that clear?). Or as I said with Christian and David S. on Saturday night -- a soul finding its contentment. The fourth movement is Heaven, the ultimate contentment -- a reconciliation of all his memory, when he sees as he is seen. The second part of Malick's Job card has (significantly, I think) an ellipse and is itself broken into two ideas -- "When the morning stars praised me together (the second movement and the environment in the third), and all the sons of God made a joyful melody (the soul's process of Becoming which is the third movement, and the consummation of which is the Fourth)."

Is that clear?

Regardless, I assure you I thought I understood every moment in TREE OF LIFE, at least in terms of its emotional content, as the film was passing through my eyes, as if Malick wasn't engaging in obscurantism or vagueness-masquerading-as-ambiguity (both of which I hate). The fact that there's a clear overall structure lets us (well, me) appreciate the moments AS moments, give them their proper significance (AS memories snatched from time), and understand why a conventional dramatic narrative doesn't really develop (or does so very thinly; a psychological one most definitely does, though).

Edited by vjmorton

Yeah ... well ... I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there on that one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Overstreet wrote:

: But I think that it's likely to complicate our discussion if we simplify things into Malick lovers and haters.

It would complicate our discussion if we took such quips seriously, yes.

: We certainly wouldn't do that with Woody Allen or Steven Spielberg, since the majority of film critics have pitched their tents a fair distance from either of those extremes.

Well, in fairness, Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg have made literally dozens of films each, and have made it very easy to avoid extreme "love it!" or "hate it!" responses to their oeuvres; there is simply too much variety in their filmographies (genre-wise, quality-wise, etc.) to allow for any simple one-size-fits-all response to their films. Malick, meanwhile, has finished exactly five films in the same time period, the first four of which at least were very similar (there may have been variations between them, but not all that much variety, so to speak) and there was a two-decade stretch there where he made no movies at all that might have affected his increasingly legendary status. For whatever that's worth.

Glenn Kenny wrote:

: Is he an aspiring inventor trying to sell his patents the world over, or is he a dedicated laborer who never missed a day of work in his adult life?

Incidentally, Steve Sailer noted the other day: "In the movie, Pitt's character describes himself as holder of 27 patents. Online, I can only find ten patents held by Emil A. Malick, but double digits is pretty good, anyway."

Oh wow. I just Googled "emil malick" to double-check that that is, in fact, Malick's father's name. And one of the top results was a WhitePages.com page that listed the elder Malick's address, phone number, and age (94; the younger Malick is 67). Freaky.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ryan H. wrote:

: So this is the film that disappoints the Malick lovers and appeals to the Malick haters?

Heh. Yeah, I've been noticing something similar, too.

Not QUITE the same thing, but close to the same idea...

Huh. Can't wait to hear what people think of this one. I wonder if it's the one that loses Malick fans but makes him a kadejillionbillion dollas.

:)

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Huh. Can't wait to hear what people think of this one. I wonder if it's the one that loses Malick fans but makes him a kadejillionbillion dollas.

Nah, this film ain't going anywhere at the Box Office. The word of mouth just isn't there. The audience is significantly less appreciative than critics, according to both Rotten Tomatoes (85% Favorable for critics; 70% Favorable for audiences) and Metacritic (85/100 Average for critics; 7.2/10 Average for audiences).

Yeah ... well ... I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there on that one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm a Malick lover, and I think this may be his best film -- certainly Days of Heaven, A New World, and The Tree of Life are his top three in my book. And I think this is one of the most decidedly Christian films ever made -- a kind of ultimate cinematic exploration of the basic human mysteries of creation, suffering, guilt, grace, and love. It spoke to me very specifically as a Christian by truthfully representing the essential nature of life which compels me to believe as I do. I really can't imagine what this film would mean to those who don't believe in a personal God, the fall of man, original sin, and/or the human need for grace.

I can think of no better cinematic representation of the fall of man than young Jack O'Brian's shame and self-disillusionment after the nightgown encounter, the portrayal of grace he receives in the scene of forgiveness by his brother was devastatingly truthful and moving, and the image of the elder Jack searching through an empty landscape but then finally stepping through the doorway was a disarmingly simple and highly effective vision of the movement of faith.

The film is stunningly epic and transcendent yet equally subjective and intimate -- for this reason, a friend of mine described it as the Lawrence of Arabia of art films. All of that, and imagery as successfully ambitious and poignant as anything I've seen in years.

Edited by Scott Derrickson

In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. -- Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I really can't imagine what this film would mean to those who don't believe in a personal God, the fall of man, original sin, and/or the human need for grace.

Whatever else might be said, it is an indubitable empirical fact that many critics who don't believe in these things are going head over heels for TREE OF LIFE.

Yeah ... well ... I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there on that one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh wow. I just Googled "emil malick" to double-check that that is, in fact, Malick's father's name. And one of the top results was a WhitePages.com page that listed the elder Malick's address, phone number, and age (94; the younger Malick is 67). Freaky.

Yes, it is. Emil Malick asked Christianity Today to put him in touch with me after my review of The New World was posted there. CT sent me his contact information. I called him (in a state of trembling disbelief) and spoke with him for about half an hour as he was cooking in his kitchen. He was very pleased with that review, and had a lot of questions for me. I learned a lot about him as well. One of the high points of my years of film reviewing, no doubt about it. If I recall correctly, he said he was 91 when we had that conversation.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I really can't imagine what this film would mean to those who don't believe in a personal God, the fall of man, original sin, and/or the human need for grace.

Whatever else might be said, it is an indubitable empirical fact that many critics who don't believe in these things are going head over heels for TREE OF LIFE.

Yes, I've just started reading the reviews. And I think perhaps this is another reason why the film is so powerful - it represents what cannot be denied about a basic Judeo-Christian understanding of the world. It's not propagating that point of view, it's demonstrating that the point of view is in a fundamental sense, real and true. For this reason, the film can't easily or accurately be rejected as being false -- but without knowing much about him personally, I'm now quite sure Malick is a Christian in some sense. The near-quoting of Paul's words about doing what you hate, and not doing what you want to do -- it just felt so decidedly Christian to me. It's not the kind of religious film I would expect an atheist or agnostic to dismiss...but as I said, I really don't know what the film would mean to them other than the fact that it means something fundamentally different to me.

In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. -- Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm starting to see more reviewers who believe we're to see a parallel between God's answer to Job and

Jack's father's harsh rebukes when Jack speaks up with what seem like very fair questions about the suffering that his father inflicts

.

I need to think about that. Because if that parallel is deliberate (and it's hard to imagine that it isn't), then what does it mean that

Mr. O'Brien eventually confesses that he was in the wrong

?

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm starting to see more reviewers who believe we're to see a parallel between God's answer to Job and

Jack's father's harsh rebukes when Jack speaks up with what seem like very fair questions about the suffering that his father inflicts

.

I need to think about that. Because if that parallel is deliberate (and it's hard to imagine that it isn't), then what does it mean that

Mr. O'Brien eventually confesses that he was in the wrong

?

I would deny that parallel and say that the (gradual) unraveling and softening

of that understanding of the father in Godly terms

in the Third Movement is part of the psychological process that the Third Movement is about -- one form of spiritual maturation.

Yeah ... well ... I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there on that one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

V.J. MORTON wrote:

I think Malick has reconfigured the Book of Job as a stream-of-conscious novel, sort of how Joyce reconfigured THE ODYSSEY. Malick uses all kinds of Biblical motifs without being tied down to a straight-down-the-line allegory/transposition (e.g., Jessica Chastain is photographed and characterized as if she were Blessed Virgin Herself, though her son isn't The Son) because it's as much a memory piece as a cosmology.

The film's first "movement" sets up the conventional Job/theodicy question -- why do we suffer? The second movement is God's cosmic answer -- "Where wast thou when I laid up the foundations of the earth?" (in the Douay-Reims rendition; don't remember which translation Malick used for the first part of his opening title card) rendered cinematically as a Creation story. The third movement is the subjective memories of a discontented modern Catholic man (Penn) going through a spiritual reconciliation with his boyhood paternal resentments, which the memories themselves are the progressive record of (is that clear?). Or as I said with Christian and Davis on Saturday night -- a soul finding its contentment. The fourth movement is Heaven, the ultimate contentment -- a reconciliation of all his memory, when he sees as he is seen. The second part of Malick's Job card has (significantly, I think) an ellipse and is itself broken into two ideas -- "When the morning stars praised me together (the second movement and the environment in the third), and all the sons of God made a joyful melody (the soul's process of Becoming which is the third movement, and the consummation of which is the Fourth)."

Is that clear?

Yes!!! i read Job last week.. or rather Job read me.... had similar and very small intuitions that maybe, maybe..and the Marian theme, oh ya , but was fearful to project too much, as i haven't seen the film yet here in Phoenix- save for the clips i can get my hands on.

But here to see these words, as beautifully written here,and with such clarity of thought this i could never gain nor reach thank you so very much V.J. Morton.

Parsiflage thank you too for the link to Mirror ( ha- the coincidence of Tarkovsky of all things ) Kartina Richardson's words there on The Tree of Life is a keeper about gettin out of her own way and this "but smiling, she says “Shhh shhh. Just listen.” i read that and i was like Yesss! And here again something good, suggestive and echoing the words of Malick...(those that are in bold below).

I include full context and source with a big hat-tip to Peter Chattaway's efforts as well, as he cited this on his great blog a while ago .

“Later, at Theater Bartlesville, Malick said, “I knew it would have a slow, rolling pace. Just get into it; let it roll over you. It’s more of an experience film. I leave you to fend for yourself, figure things out yourself… I film quite a bit of footage, then edit… Changes before your eyes, things you can do and things you can’t. My attitude is always let it keep rolling… There’s a good many pictures I’d like to make, we’ll see how many I’ll be allowed to make…” from: Susan Albert of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise catches up with a Terrence Malick Q&A 2005

This has bean such an exciting thread to watch these past 3 daysyou Scott Derrickson u helped assuage some bleak fears...captivated now with a growing good in a little dossier of bookmarks a la the artist Joseph Cornell to enrich the experience and to help J.Overstreet, but these...wow. :blink:

Edited by Jacques
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm starting to see more reviewers who believe we're to see a parallel between God's answer to Job and

Jack's father's harsh rebukes when Jack speaks up with what seem like very fair questions about the suffering that his father inflicts

.

I need to think about that. Because if that parallel is deliberate (and it's hard to imagine that it isn't), then what does it mean that

Mr. O'Brien eventually confesses that he was in the wrong

?

Does he confess that he was in the wrong?

As I recall, what he says is "I'm not proud of that".

And V.J. Morton's breakdown of the meaning of the four movements in the film is essentially how I saw it also. Well said.

Edited by Scott Derrickson

In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. -- Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well,

his breakdown, his expression of regret, his lament over "not seeing the glory" ... I took that as a sort of admission that he'd behaved inappropriately.

Sheesh, there are so many reasons I need to see this again before I turn in my review. But that ain't gonna happen.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well,

his breakdown, his expression of regret, his lament over "not seeing the glory" ... I took that as a sort of admission that he'd behaved inappropriately.

Sheesh, there are so many reasons I need to see this again before I turn in my review. But that ain't gonna happen.

Yes, and in that moment the God analogy must break down if it exists --

God lamenting that he did not see the glory? I think the Job analogy does not apply so much to father but to the son's relationship to the father. The son is crushed, perplexed, and embittered by his fathers actions, though we later learn that his fathers intentions were essentially noble and good. But personally, I don't make more of the father/son God/humanity analogy than the Christianity makes of it -- it is the simple analogy scripture and tradition uses to describe our relationship to God: he is our father, and at times his actions are inexplicable to us. What I didn't get from the film at all is the idea of a remorseful God, regretting the suffering he inflicts and/or allows.

Edited by Scott Derrickson

In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. -- Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some nice take aways in the collaboration between Terrence Malick and Emmanuel Lubezki, AMC.

"In the following conversation, Lubezki explains his collaborative with Malick and the thought processes that led to their decisions.

Terrence Malick is known as a very visual filmmaker. How does that affect your work?

Films have inherited a lot from other arts, like theater and literature. Since I first met him many years ago, I have felt that Terry is trying to make films, and to express himself, without using the part of film’s DNA that comes from these other arts. The images in his films are very, very important to him. Sometimes he says to me, “Dialog is not what I’m trying to capture. I’m trying to capture an emotion, and I want to do that visually.” I think he has succeeded, and that’s why his films are so strong.

How does that translate into filmmaking techniques?

It’s incredibly difficult. We joke that we are like fishermen. We are trying to get little bits from a river that is constantly flowing. Sometimes you catch one or two, and sometimes you don’t. It’s very nerve-wracking. Sometimes it seems like he is almost trying to create a mistake, to take the actors and the camera to a place where they are going to crash. And it’s those little accidents and moments which are in the film and look naturalistic. Those are the truly visually expressive moments."

sourcee

Edited by Jacques
Link to comment
Share on other sites

And I think this is one of the most decidedly Christian films ever made -- a kind of ultimate cinematic exploration of the basic human mysteries of creation, suffering, guilt, grace, and love.

An honest question: can it be an "ultimate cinematic exploration of the basic human mysteries of creation, suffering, guilt, grace, and love" if it doesn't deal with those concepts in light of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the essential center of of the Christian profession?

It is perhaps the absence of such emphasis that allows people like Ebert to say this about it: "I believe it stands free from conventional theologies, although at its end it has images that will evoke them for some people."

For this reason, the film can't easily or accurately be rejected as being false -- but without knowing much about him personally, I'm now quite sure Malick is a Christian in some sense.

After reading Malick's first draft script of THE TREE OF LIFE, I'm pretty sure he's not. His comments in the script expand upon the meaning of his images and his underlying philosophies, and his worldview definitely doesn't seem like something that could be rightly called Christian. Perhaps theistic (or possibly panentheistic), but not Christian.

Edited by Ryan H.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

After reading Malick's first draft script of THE TREE OF LIFE, I'm pretty sure he's not. His comments in the script expand upon the meaning of his images and his underlying philosophies, and his worldview definitely doesn't seem like something that could be rightly called Christian. Perhaps theistic (or possibly panentheistic), but not Christian.

I agree with this, and it has always been the lens through which I even read Malick's biblical references. One will often hear Buddhism described as a Christless Christianity. This also seems to apply to Malick.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share


×
×
  • Create New...