Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mother Brother Father Dinosaur

This afternoon I went to see Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.  I'd read enough about the film beforehand to know that it was about a son's relationship with his father and that the film somehow featured dinosaurs, but I just didn't know how it would all fit together.  And having seen it, I still don't know how it all fits together.  But I liked it.  The best way to describe the movie is to equate it to a poem.  A cinematic poem.  Everyone can read the same poem and each person take a different perspective.  And that's how you have to experience this film, knowing that you are going to take something unique away from it.  

To me, the film is a reflection on the scope of one's life and contemplation of a God who can create all manner of earthly structures and creatures, like canyons, oceans, and dinosaurs, but can also allow for the death of a sibling at the tender age of nineteen.  In life, sometimes we reach an age where we start reflecting on our childhood, God, and our place in the universe.  This is what I believe adult Jack, played by Sean Penn, is doing when we see flashbacks of him and his father, played by Pitt, along with his relationships with his brothers and mother.  With hardly any dialogue, the film has a series of voice overs asking seemingly rhetorical questions about things that happen in life and seeking answers from a higher power.   There are common themes like love, jealousy,change and death, but there is no real plot per se.  And if you prefer linear storytelling, this film is not for you as the movie moves back and forth through time and has a long segment where you feel like you are watching a nature film.  At  a little over two hours, there were points that felt tedious, but overall I was never disinterested.  It also had wonderful cinematography and a lovely musical score which anyone could appreciate.  Is it the best film I've ever seen? No.  But if you love film as an artistic endeavor and its power to convey ideas and stimulate critical thinking through images, then The Tree of Life is worth seeing.

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