Monday, 4 July 2011

The Tree Of Life

Being a man of simple pleasures, I went into Terrence Malick's The Tree Of Life fully expecting not to understand a single frame. An arthouse movie about the meaning of life, the creation of the universe and Brad Pitt's questionable parenting skills with absolutely no aliens, robots, car chases or explosions? Hmm.

But wait! What's that? Dinosaurs? DINOSAURS?
Alas, as it turned out, even the dinosaurs were too arty to eat each other or even hit each other over the head with a frying pan, preferring to bimble about in the forest contemplating Kierkegaard's theories of existentialism and waiting for the total annihilation of their species.

Fortunately, Tezza was kind enough to make his slightly wanky film absolutely stunning to look at. Using the latest Stunnovision cameras with Stunnomorphic lenses and filming exclusively in Stunnoscope, director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki more or less engraves his own name on next year's Best Cinematography Oscar with some of the most achingly beautiful imagery ever committed to film. Shots of incredible natural phenomena mix with nostalgia-tinged representations of a 1950s-set childhood and the odd star going supernova to create the world's greatest Flickr gallery right before your eyes.
Though The Tree Of Life doesn't exactly sacrifice content for style, it might just be a tad on the dull side if it didn't look so great. The trials and tribulations of a family growing up - and apart - in 1950s Texas just about hold the attention thanks to some excellent performances, and I can kind of see how it all might just maybe possibly relate to the infinitely wider themes of life, the universe and everything. However, when Sean Penn starts pootling about looking like he's filled his nappy and doesn't know how to tell anyone the whole exercise began to test my artwank threshold.

So while it's a surreal combination of David Attenborough's Planet Earth, the weirder bits of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the world's most languid soap opera, The Tree Of Life is just about good enough to recommend. Its astounding visuals, Big Themes and note-perfect performances are the things you take with you when you leave, but if you're not in the right mood you'll be asleep before the first cosmic cataclysm.


  1. Cinema should be capable of holding attention by sheer beauty as well as action or comedy. 'Far From The Madding Crowd' (1967) directed by John Schlesinger and shot by Nicholas Roeg is set in the country at a time when a fast spectacle was the changing of the seasons and the swiftest transport a galloping horse. To enjoy such a film requires one to surrender the senses and and become immersed in the pace of 19th century rural England. Perhaps the same is true of Texas in 'The Tree of Life'. I look forward to seeing the film and falling in with whatever pace itsets.

  2. I remember reading somewhere a while back that there were dinosaurs, then wondering if I'd imagined that because all of the reviews wanked on about how it is a searing, soaring, transcendent magnum opus exploring the human condition, when - fuck that noise, dinosaurs!!

    I'll be honest, it sounds mega-boring. It's going to be another Blue Valentine, isn't it: I'll see it, hate it, and feel guilty for hating a film that everyone whose opinion I trust loved (until I remember just how much I hated it, at which point I will stop feeling guilty and feel full of hate instead).

  3. Raincorn,

    The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference. Feelings of love and hate are only extended to anything that commands your attention.

    If Blue Valentine was entirely without merit you would simply ignore it. There must be something powerful in the film that stirs your emotions.

  4. I hated that it bored me to tears, does that count?

  5. Oh, did you have to use THOSE dinosaurs? The ones that die horrible implied deaths at the end of the show? Which is probably the exact opposite of what Tree of Life is, so yay irony, but now the nightmares will come back...

  6. Rainicorn, you should probs stop going to the cinema.

  7. Marge Gunderson6 July 2011 at 19:16

    You appear to have confirmed my initial thoughts from seeing the trailer. It does look amazing but possibly a bit self indulgent.
    On another note I can't understand why anyone would hate Blue Valentine. It is utterly beautiful and incredibly moving, I have never cried so much.