13 June 2011

The Tree of Life *

I don't have a lot to say about this one. Malick isn't a guy whose films you watch once and walk out with concrete, fully-formed opinions readymade for a blathering first-response movie blog. They have to sit with you a while and you have to give them some space to breathe. It sounds all lofty and hoity-toity, but I tried to give Jen a sense of what she was getting into (having not seen a Terrence Malick film before), and I said they were something like cinematic transcendental poetry.

It was beautiful and evocative and forced patience and open-mindedness while watching. The complicated emotions were never lost on me -- and I found a surprising amount of my own childhood echoed in the story of Jack and his father -- but some of the nitty-gritty plot details escaped me. (SPOILERS) For one, I was unclear for a while which son Sean Penn was portraying the adult-version of (he was Jack; by the end it felt obvious) and which son died (the musician boy, whose name I'm not sure they said). And mostly I had trouble linking the story of Adult Jack, in his world of glass of steel, to the idyllic/anti-idyllic past of Young Jack -- specifically, I couldn't find any specific impetus for him to be having such a rough time of it, and thinking back to his dead 19 year old brother (who we only meet as a child, incidentally; implying his death was not Jack's fault or perceived as such). Jen and I gathered it was an anniversary, but still. Adult Jack could barely keep his shit together, and the strength of his emotions felt disproportionate to the time and distance that separated him from the events. But this isn't a movie about its plot, and I didn't actually find those questions very pressing or important to the story. This is about the feelings, and the relationships, and the world, and the abstract impressions there aren't words for that come from the long sequences of nature and grace colliding.

The beautiful montage of images of the universe forming -- nebulas, planets, asteroids, early life, dinosaurs -- may have no literal use in this story, but it wouldn't have been The Tree of Life without it. But whether or not Adult Jack has a reason to suddenly miss his brother so much, that's not really the kind of thing that trips up the watching of this. I only linger on it here because, what else can I say? The rest of it needs a lot more time to digest.

Seen at the Regal Fox Tower.

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