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The Tree Of Life (2011) review

Posted : 2 years, 10 months ago on 23 March 2017 05:32

[English Version]

The Tree of Life is an American experimental drama film written and directed by Terrence Malick. The movie narrates the evolution of Jack, a child who lives with his mother (Jessica Chastain), who embodies love and kindness, while his father (Brad Pitt), who represents severity, is in charge of teaching him to face A hostile world. Sean Penn plays Jack as an adult. On the other hand, it is also the history of the Universe from its origins.

Experimental cinema is divided into two types: First, it's the type of experimental cinema which is abstract without a message or even a clear point (example Gus Van Sant's Gerry or Goodbye To Language), and there is this part which finds a way to be abstract and have a message, The Tree of Life belongs in the second category.

This is the definition of an artistic fulm done it right and by far the best work of his director. There are reasons why I consider this one of my favorite movies of all time, although with some moments that feel a bit random and with a slow pacing.

Leaving it aside, everything else is flawless. It's a existential film like any other, with a well-used abstract narrative, well written cast of characters that do not badly interfere with the film or his main message, it is a story very well narrated either because of the interactions between our protagonists, the fragmented story or the way that thedirector uses to give freshness to what is being told. Giving one the most heart-breaking and beautiful endings that I have seen in this type of cinema.

The visuals are also freakin' beautiful: Having a phenomenal soundtrack, a
beautiful work on the cinematography, a use of pretty good symbolism most of the time with scenes of the origin of the life, angles shots of the camera are well done, the actors are great in their roles giving good nuances to their characters.

Along side with other films like Eraserhead, Hugo, Upstream Color, Synecdoche New York, etc, are those films made with such affection for its director tha I could do nothing more than keep respect for him. It may not be the great masterpiece I say it is, but I do believe it is one of the best films that have come out in recent years and it deserves to be watch it

Final Score: 9.5/10

[Spanish Version]

The Tree of Life/El Abrol de la Vida es una película experimental americana del drama escrita y dirigida por Terrence Malick. La película narra la evolución de Jack, un niño que vive con su madre (Jessica Chastain), que encarna el amor y la bondad, mientras que su padre (Brad Pitt), que representa la severidad, se encarga de enseñarle a enfrentarse a un mundo hostil. Sean Penn interpreta a Jack como un adulto. Por otra parte, es también la historia del Universo desde sus orígenes.

El cine experimental se divide en dos tipos: En primer lugar, es el tipo de cine experimental que es abstracto sin un mensaje o incluso un punto claro (ejemplo Gerry de Gus Van Sant o Goodbye To Language), y hay esta parte que encuentra una manera de ser Abstracto y tiene un mensaje, The Tree of Life pertenece en la segunda categoría.

Esta es la definición de una película artista hecho bien y por mucho el mejor trabajo de su director. Hay razones por las que considero esta una de mis películas favoritas de todos los tiempos, aunque con algunos momentos que se sienten un poco random y con un ritmo lento.

Dejándolo a un lado, todo lo demás es impecable. Es una película existencial como pocas, con una narrativa abstracta bien utilizada, un elenco bien escrito de personajes que no interfieren de mala manera con la película o su mensaje principal, es una historia muy bien narrada ya sea por las interacciones entre nuestros protagonistas, La historia fragmentada o la forma en que el director utiliza para dar frescura a lo que se está diciendo. Dar uno de los finales más desgarradores y hermosos que he visto en este tipo de cine.

El apartado técnico es jodidamente bello también: Poseyendo una banda sonora fenomenal, un hermoso trabajo sobre la cinematografía, un uso de simbolismo bastante bueno la mayor parte del tiempo con escenas del origen de la vida, planos de ángulos de la cámara están bien hechos, los actores son grandes en sus papeles dando buenos matices a sus personajes.

Junto a otras películas como Eraserhead, Hugo, Upstream Color, Synecdoche New York, etc, son esas películas hechas con tanto afecto por su director que no pude hacer nada más que mantener el respeto por él. No puede ser la gran obra maestra que digo que es, pero puedo asegurar que es una de las mejores películas que han salido en los últimos años y que merece ser vista

Nota final: 9.5/10

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The Tree Of Life (2011) review

Posted : 5 years, 12 months ago on 26 January 2014 06:47

This is one of Terrence Malick's best films he has ever done, and I also heard it's a very personal piece of work he's been working on for a long time. The execution of it is simple, and I admired every minute of its amazing impressionistic cinematography with a great deal of themes.

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Art Cinema At Its Best

Posted : 6 years, 3 months ago on 14 October 2013 12:52

When Malick first pitched the idea of Tree of Life he was called "crazy"; plot details were veiled and nevertheless it became patent that this was to become the most ambitious and philosophically rich film. Having seen this film numerous times now it is still difficult to outline the plot details. Tree of Life film paints a picture of everyday life in 1950s American midlands and creates an unflinching vision of the childhood belonging to Jack O'Brien, portrayed by Sean Penn. Malick injects realism and dream sequences simultaneously evoking the innermost human feelings, achieving this with artistic imagery and unconventional, fragmented and non-linear narrative; the film transitions from Jack's stark memories of child play, sights of his parent's secrets, feelings of his sexuality and guilty trespass to a backdrop of the origins of the universe and the inception and end of life on Earth. And that is what marks Tree of Life from mainstream Hollywood.

There have been films in passing years that have been endowed cult status that perhaps don't deserve it. People believe the film is "cutting edge" and will "revolutionise" cinema whilst endeavouring to fabricate nonsensical interpretations. However, Tree of Life is art and as an art house film its experimental and not designed for mass appeal. To watch Tree of Life it is necessary to look at his film as a piece of art. It's not geared towards escapism and pure entertainment and one needs to expect that there is deviations from mainstream film norms. The Tree of Life is simply art cinema at its best.

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The Tree Of Life (2011) review

Posted : 6 years, 6 months ago on 17 July 2013 05:07

Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life may be the closest the cinema has to its own Mass in B minor: it's gargantuan, encompassing, messy and bold. It's also exquisitely beautiful and personal on a level seemingly impossible for something that feels so vast. The Missa comprises movements under four distinct sections, and The Tree of Life incorporates the themes and styles of the director's four previous features into a film that feels infinite and minute, unwieldy yet perversely whole.
Malick's mad and magnificent film descends slowly, like some sort of prototypical spaceship: it's a cosmic-interior epic of vainglorious proportions, a rebuke to realism, a disavowal of irony and comedy, a meditation on memory, and a gasp of horror and awe at the mysterious inevitability of loving, and losing those we love... This is visionary cinema on an unashamedly huge scale: cinema that's thinking big. Malick makes an awful lot of other film-makers look timid and negligible by comparison.

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Posted : 7 years, 11 months ago on 7 February 2012 12:43

I saw the movie last week and after it was over the only thing i've said it was: "Weird". This is just my opinion but it was too much. It was very confusing. Not that i didn't liked Terrence's directing but the movie a little creepy. Especially those scenes with the Universe.
It was special indeed just a little weird.

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It's just too much...

Posted : 8 years ago on 24 January 2012 09:14

"The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by."

Well. What can you say? After I saw this film I needed some time to let it sink in. You can't deny that this is a very ambitious film from Terrence Malick. He's gone crazy, and by doing so he has created a film about life, creation, destruction, mercy and by how you can keep faith even though everything is taken from you. He's gone mad. Malick gives everything from the beginning, and has created a film that is possibly a bit pretentious, but yet so magnificent and grand, that you really don't know what to say. This is not a film for everyone. Those who are into art films are probably going to fell in love with it right away, while your average filmgoer is more likely to suffer through the film. I'm a bit stuck in the middle. I don't suffer myself through it, but I can't embrace it either. My main problem with it is that Malick doesn't know how to stop. It's just too much.

Malick goes out in full speed from the very start. He never stops. It's beautiful, and gorgeously executed. Which it is during the entire film for the most part. Nearly every frame is beautiful. Yet, it never hits my with the force that Malick tries to do. It's beautiful, but I don't really care. It's too much of everything. It's too overwhelming, too magnificent, too spectacular, it's just too perfect for it's own good. It's gorgeous, but that's it. It's like looking at some kind of painting. It's beautiful, but it doesn't affect me. And when it doesn't affect me, it gets kind of boring eventually.

"Brother. Keep us. Guide us. To the end of time."

That Malick has a good eye for things that looks good on film, there is no doubt about. Even though I'm not a huge fan of The Thin Red Line or The New World, I can't deny that they look amazing. He is a master of visuals. The photography in his films are always beautiful. And in The Tree of Life he takes it to a whole new level. It's as spectacular as you can get it. It's gorgeous. Even though there are some sequences that is a bit too long, too perfect and too "epic", there are some sequences that makes you speechless. For instance, there is a sequence from when the wife gets pregnant til the child takes it first step. It's insanely touching and beautiful, and it is just magic.

And it is those "simple" scenes that are the best ones. When Malick pull a little bit back, and doesn't go completely crazy. Like the example I just mentioned, or scenes when the brothers are just fooling around with each other, or arguing. The emotion is strong in those scenes, and it is touching. It's completely believable, and the acting from the children are very strong. As a coming of age film it's very strong, even though the setting ain't too original, it's more heartfelt then most other films dealing with the same idea. It seems so natural.

"Grace doesn't try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries."

Then it is a bit of a shame that it gets drowned in all the other stuff, it's a shame that Malick doesn't know his own limitations. He tries to put in everything. Even dinosaurs, and it is the dinosaurs that is perhaps the weakest part of the film. Not only because the dinosaurs are poorly placed within the gorgeous frame, but because it shows really good what is wrong with the film. That it is too big. Too naive, too romantic, too sentimental. Another weak link is Sean Penn. He doesn't really belong in the film, and I've read an interview with him saying that he didn't exactly know his place either. He doesn't really add anything.

The Tree of Life is a rare experience, there is no doubt about that. It's a film that it is hard to put the right words on. It's a gorgeous film that hits many of the right spots, but that still manages to be too spectacular, that it doesn't manage to engage as much as it has potential to do. Malick is ambitious, but this is too much for him to handle. And when it gets to much for him, then it is indeed too much for me as well.

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The Tree Of Life (2011) review

Posted : 8 years, 1 month ago on 19 December 2011 07:12

The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick is brave and goes to the limit of the philosophical weights always pretentious and complex, through an intricate montage of images and sounds (yes, who knows what Godard wanted to do in terms of narrative language in Film Socialisme and failed miserably), we see the beginning and the end of life, from the the macro to the microcosm.

The incredible sequence of 18 minutes following the creation of life in the universe from the Big Bang to the simplest cell in the earth is a catharsis. Uncommon in the today’s cinema, it shows signs of what the film is a work unique sensory, a spectacle narrated Kubrickian, 2001 – A Space Odyssey of our time, all recreated from the lens of the Hubble telescope and Douglas Trumbull, coincidentally or not, a veteran of the special effects who also participated in 2001.

The sequence serves as a reallocation of human life on a universal scale, we are all so tiny towards everything that the universe has passed and still arrogant enough to believe that everything revolves around us, as seen in the permanent collections of "God" something which is totally absent in the film. The loss of one human life even though affects the undeniable and irreversible way the life all around us, is negligible towards everything else. It is a double-edged sword, because every minute we are reminded through memorable images with the photography by Emmanuel Lubezki, which are often the simplest things, life is found in every corner of the planet, each microorganism is a miracle for itself that defies existence.

Although Sean Penn doesn’t even have a dialogue in the film, his role is crucial to represent the grief of the modern world that increasingly moves away from nature and grace, and why not, the enjoyment of life itself. This fellowship has been lost, and not towards the tacky thing, but through the symbolic gesture of planting a tree and create a life that is relegated to the memories, life just passing without realizing it. It is a sadden detachment set in depressed physiognomy of Jack. Because all that time went too fast, and somehow never going to look real.

It is good to note how far off the narration for the movie itself contributes, the personality of each character is made forcefully, and the dialogue is unnecessary. Life is unable to be defined by words, just images you are entitled.
That's why this film was conceived as a work so important to feel alive , like the purest art . A gesture, like the hand of a father resting on the shoulder of a child choked with regret, the foot of a newborn child insured by the hands of the same father, barefoot in wet grass, a look, no matter how small, who can only be captured with proper fluidity by the camera upsidedown suggesting all this intimacy.
And that's why despite the controversial end, the feeling of leaving the exhibition hall of Tree of Life is such a rewarding experience. I am an atheist and yet I must say I felt astounded by the sequence on the beach, the reunion of the father, son, brother and mother, where every word is given, only a look just to fix any remorse. Believe you in the afterlife, heaven, god or whatever, it’s an inspiring representation. And as corny as it sounds, the words whispered in a given moment is timeless, "unless you love, your life will flash by", for every single moment that gives meaning to life.

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The next branch in the tree of cinema.

Posted : 8 years, 4 months ago on 7 September 2011 10:41

Having being a victim of release delays and distribution issues since filming concluded in late 2008/early 2009, and although it wasn't released at all cinemas or for a long time when at some cinemas, The Tree Of Life was finally released in May 2011. Due to it's eerie, surrealistic and experimental elements that are featured within, it could possibly be a new landmark in modern cinema. So for that reason, expectations were exceedingly high. In the past, we have seen motion pictures involving their own theories of life and how it begun, how the universe formed and what the future could be in store for us. The Tree Of Life takes us on many adventures, and perhaps a series of them that we hadn't experienced in a very long time, if not the first. It beautifully redefines all the beauty and perhaps the uniqueness of nature both on Earth and in the Universe, the innocence, the troubles and the close bonds between human beings and perhaps most importantly, a surrealistic vision of childhood itself. So this is a film that truly could lead you to tears. The magnificent music by Alexandre Desplat was like the icing on the cake, making it the final content in the mixture to make it an almost perfectly produced motion picture.

Nowadays, cinema is becoming something that is now simply just for people to think of cheesy storylines and with overloading computer-generated effects. The Tree Of Life was released during this era that not only once honors similar older films from the past generation; especially 2001: A Space Odyssey due to the eerie music score and to the familiar imagery shots of the universe, but it also shows a whole new side to cinema. This film reveals that cinema is in fact a form of fine art both visually and theoretically, so it has its concepts that are interesting towards admirers of any kind of artist. It also has a profound religious sense, but whether one is religious or not, it doesn't necessarily matter because the features within the film don't require anything to do with that or any beliefs.

As there probably was many actors who wanted the leading role in The Tree Of Life, Brad Pitt was the chosen actor to take the honours of being the leading actor as he portrays Mr. O'Brien (he was also one of the producers of the film too). When Brad was in the early stages of his career, he was a heartthrob and now that he has hit the middle age and has taken the leading role in recent Oscar nominated films The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button by David Fincher and Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino, we are now seeing a whole new side to Brad and his acting talents. He has normally played heroic and charming characters, but in all three films as previously mentioned, he begins to act as something extraordinary and perhaps more towards his own age. Mr O'Brien is a well-intentioned father who wants the best for his kids, but at the same time, he is quite abrupt towards them (especially Jack) and rather strict. So that is two new personality types that we see from Brad in a film. Brad rightly deserves an Academy Award nomination for Best Leading Actor, so hopefully he'll be a strong contender to win like he should be.

Before The Tree Of Life was released, Jessica Chastain was an actress who was hardly a Hollywood actress and one who not that many people were familiar with. However, this is truly her breakthrough film and performance as she portrays Mrs. O'Brien. She expresses the perfect nature of a true mother by wanting the best for her kids, try to make them happy and taking good care of them. Together, Chastain and Pitt act like Adam and Eve so to speak seeing as we are taken into imagery shots of life forms and then a child is born as a follow-up and it is like the generation of human beings have continued.

Although Sean Penn in fact isn't involved in The Tree Of Life as much as expected, he provides another very special performance. We don't really see middle-aged Jack speak very often, and we're just swept into a whole new world alongside him. When we do, we are there with Jack equally feeling the emotions of seeing his family again, and the pride to discover the true meaning of life and the existence of faith, which is what the purpose of the film was in the first place. Penn's performance perfectly shows that acting isn't always about words, and he isn't the first person to pass on this message so brilliantly. Holly Hunter achieved this in 1993 and that her an Academy Award for Best Leading Actress. Sean Penn is perhaps an Oscar worthy contender for Best Supporting Actor.

Hunter McCracken had a lot on his shoulders as he was cast as young Jack, and what we have got from him is definitely the best acting performance from a child star that there has been in quite a while. McCracken worked incredibly well alongside Jessica Chastain as a solid and normal mother-son relationship, but he was even better alongside Brad Pitt due to the love-hate relationship that Jack had with his father. Due to the Academy's occasionally-biased attitude towards young actors and their performances, McCracken might miss out on being a contender, but he should win the Critics Choice Award for Best Young Actor/Actress.

Terrence Malick, a director who I am familiar with but not a huge admirer of, directs only his fifth feature film in his career (other films include Badlands, Days Of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, The New World) considering he is almost 70 years old. He goes on to make his masterpiece and it could earn him Oscar glory at the upcoming 84th Academy Awards. Being one who disliked his previous film The New World, The Tree Of Life has truly made up for that! Terrence Malick's The Tree Of Life is Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 and perhaps Disney's Fantasia which a unique 'story', with artistic visual designs and with different concepts of spine-chilling music. You could really tell how dedicated Terrence Malick was to this project seeing as it wasn't only his fifth film in almost 40 years with a lot of narrative dialogue within the script during scenes in both Texas and imagery scenes of the Universe and of nature on Earth. Although, we don't see that many casual conversations, Malick writes the script as if it is the imagery footage and the music are telling the story, and that is a very difficult task!

Overall, The Tree Of Life is the latest cinematic landmark and is the biggest breakthrough since Avatar in 2009 (only for it's effects). The film expresses something very important to the audience; not so much a message, but it's more like a lesson seeing as it is showing that is how life could have begun and a visual as well as theoretical vision of what the afterlife could be like. No, The Tree Of Life isn't going to be something that everyone will watch, it will require patience to watch and perhaps won't be a popular film worldwide like many films nowadays, but in modern cinema and hopefully to the Academy, it makes its mark and achieves something new and makes the audience have a few minutes thoughts afterwards.

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The Tree Of Life (2011) review

Posted : 8 years, 6 months ago on 16 July 2011 05:48

To preface this is the year that I really got into Malick. Since January I've seen Badlands, Days of Heaven, A New World and The Thin Red Line and adored them all (The Thin Red Line, less that the others) largely because the trailer for The Tree of Life excited me so.

Usually I'm quite happy to waffle on about a movie and drop stupid analysis like no ones business, but this film just genuinely floored me. I'm not a man of faith, at all, but there's something about this film which is just amazingly spiritual. It reminds me a lot of The Last Temptation of Christ in how it serves as both an analysis of religion but also as a spiritual experience all of its own. I love the central conceit of God filtered through the eyes of a child and represented by the two parents. There's something about the continual soul searching in the film which is deeply affecting.

It's also an amazing use of subjective story telling, with the majority of the story told from the perception of Jack as a youngster. This subjective approach is fantastic and it helps to make the core conflict of the film really resonate. A lot of Malick's films tend to focus on the nature of man and man's place in nature. This film muses on this subject by having mother and father represent different ideologies. The father is a man bound by social constructs and tormented by his own failures, a person shaped by his nature. The mother describes her nature as being of the way of grace and she exists in the world almost free of those social constraints. Her world is blinkered, inward, and unsullied by external factors whilst the father is paralysed by the reaction of others. The children naturally side with the mother and as such we're presented with a very skewed vision of the father and the mother, with the mother being an almost divine force whilst the father is a constant reminder of the everyday.

The film sees to have the view that both ethoses are flawed, that both need to be in place to counteract each other. Whilst the father is portrayed as brutish and deeply resentful, the film shows that the mother isn't a parental figure with control over her children when the father isn't there. He's essentially a neccesary evil due to the mothers ideology, however because we're getting the film from the persepective of a child he's rendered almost monstrous and the mother almost angelic.

My only real complaint about the film are two specific moments where I think the film loses sight of itself. The first is the short section featuring dinosaurs. It's part of a grand sequence showing the formation of the world and most of it is framed as a 'call and response' to the narration, the dinosaur section however doesn't have any narration to frame it and as such it feels kind of untethered from the rest of the film. It's also kind of odd because the dinosaurs are literally in two sequences and one of them seems to be there purely to reinforce the Nature vs. Grace ideology. I also think the film perhaps ends a few too many times, with the metaphysics of the finale getting a tad too much. Conceptually they're fine, but it's just exhausting having these natural end points and then there being yet more of the film.

Malick's eye is amazing, his framing and composition and the way he delivers information visually are just astounding. There are a few 'Malick Moments' which feel like broad parodies of a Malick movie, constant cutaways to waterfalls and leaves which are effective 95% of the time but across a little schticky that other 5%. The score is amazing though, the use of Smetana's Ma Vlast is amazing and Deplat's score is gorgeous. Really can't wait to get a copy of it.

Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain are great for different reasons. Pitt manages to find a lot of humanity in a character who is rendered monstrous by the subjective point of view, whilst Chastain manages to make the dialogue absolutely sing. A don't think many other actors could make Malick's dialogue work nearly as well as Chastian does.

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A very good movie

Posted : 8 years, 7 months ago on 3 June 2011 12:10

I have been waiting to see this movie for maybe 2 years and I definitely had some big expectations. Honestly, I can't say it was as good as I expected but it was still a very good picture. Basically, it starts with an awe inspiring introduction which I cannot describe and then the movie went very theological and metaphysical. I guess that since I'm not that smart, I was kind of losing track of the whole thing but then Mallick came again and again with some amazing sequences really beautifully shot with some awesome music, and then I was again completely fascinated by the moving pictures in front of me. I know, this review sounds rather cryptical but so is this movie. Watching this movie is like going to a museum and staring at a masterpiece. Nothing is explained to you but you get some emotional reaction to it, right there in your gut, a reaction which will be really personal and someone else may have a completely different response to it. In my opinion, Brad Pitt gave an amazing performance and displayed once again that he is one of the best actors around and I don't think I have ever seen any children giving such impressive performances before, just mind-blowing. And of course, Malick is an amazing director, actually he is not, he is an amazing artist, something rare nowadays in the movie industry. To conclude, many people won't get this movie and will loathe it. It is definitely the least accessible movie directed by Malick and I'm not sure I did get half of it but it doesn't matter. I touched me very deeply and many times, I thought I was watching myself when the father was messing up his family or when the older boy was getting messed up. Anyway, if you're looking for some deep and meaningfull movie, you should definitely have a look at this one.

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