Saturday, June 11, 2011
Tree of Life Review by Josh Martin
Some beautiful images and interesting narrative ideas marred by too much pretention.
I have never fallen under Malick’s spell as many cinephiles have; I have always found his films visually striking, but underwhelming thematically. This film was no exception. The CGI dinosaurs were cheesy and many of the nature scenes recalled Planet Earth or an IMAX documentary. The spiritual overtones were obnoxious and the characters and situations rather clichéd. A disciplinarian father and an earthy mother in 1950s America has been done to death.
The film is not terrible, however, and its use of elliptic narrative, rapid cuts, and jumping between periods of time and space were interesting. I would say, as with Malick’s previous two films, the director needs to better self-edit himself. There is an interesting work in here, but it is too often marred by self-indulgence and an overwhelming self-importance. Since Malick’s return to filmmaking in the late ‘90s his films have felt so consciously “epic” and “grand” as to become obnoxious. I felt like with every shot he was trying so hard to convince us that he is a great filmmaker and this is a masterpiece. It is not a masterpiece.
Having said all that, I was pleased to find myself in a crowded theater for such a fractured, obtuse, long, and not terribly commercial film on Friday night; and I saw very few walks out and the theater remained pretty quiet throughout the entire film. It seems like audiences are willing to put in the effort, but only if there is already some name recognition. This gives me some hope that there still is an audience for interesting and difficult films out there; they just need to be pointed in the right directions.
Overall, I think the film was average, though quite interesting. It is a work I would be interested in discussing with fellow cinephiles. I was underwhelmed by most it, but there were moments that I loved. I like the spirit of this work, but I feel like all of it has been done much better (see Solaris or 2001: A Space Odyssey).
Posted by Josh