Movie Review – The Tree of Life

Posted: June 16, 2013 in Movie Reviews
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The film opens with fire, what I guess is primary source of all energy. It starts on a spiritual note telling us the two types of life and flashes to a story where O’Brien (Brad Pitt) and his wife mourn for the loss of their child. Then it further goes to a story where (Jack O’Brien) Sean Penn mourns about the demise of his brother. His mourning looks more like a mourning of guilt. Once we are exposed to all three parts of the story the nature, the parents’ story and brother’s story we again get to see various images of animals and greeneries and mountains and aqua life. It occupies about half an hour of the film. That half an hour which was totally confusing was still the best part of the movie.


After trying so hard to find what Terrence Malick was trying to imply I was shocked with my ignorance. It was all there in front of me. It was so simple but still my mind complicated things to the maximum. That simple thing which had confused me for about half an hour was life. The director brilliantly shows what life is all about. How life differs in each ones perspective. How a small reaction in once side of the universe could affect totally independent person in another part of the earth. This even says about the butterfly effect, chaos theory and so on. How no individual is independent and how much the individual is dependent on universe and every other being in universe. So next time when you say I’m a totally independent person. Beware!

What left me really confusing was the part which happened after those initial few minutes. There was certain slur in the movie.  Things started to become stale and dropped dead in its own being. Is it an example of how one part of life could be so boring and even though if it’s boring it has effects on the universe or am I thinking too much?

The opening talkie scenes of the movie where we get to experience nothing but silence and background voices was superb broken by the arrival of letter about O’Brien’s suns death. Mrs O’Brien wails reading the mail and O’Brien becomes sad knowing about the letter. O’Brien doesn’t get to hear her wife’s voice clearly because of the background noise produced by the flight thus distracting us as well as him. Lovely shot that!

The story majorly deals with Jacks thoughts. How he takes up life and how confused he is passing by his adolescence. He has a very strict father who asks him to call him father instead of dad and a loving mother. He is a confused kid. He doesn’t know which path to take. Though his father is strict he likes certain habits of him like his piano, the way his father walks etc and though his mother is good he hates certain habits of her like being too hen pecked under his husband, a woman who could not stand by her thoughts etc.

And unfortunately to add confusion to the life his friend dies and that brings a whole lot of change in him. He starts questioning his life. He doesn’t have any purpose in life. He now knows that he could die any moment. And at that restless juncture his father goes away for a business trip which becomes a perfect fodder for him to roam about and rebel without cause. He does that too and becomes more irritated. Even that doesn’t give him happiness

I love films about adolescence, I like the confusion faced by them. I liked the way an adolescence was handled in 400 blows but here it was highly confusing not only for the kid but for us too. We don’t get to have any opinion on the kid. All we could do was stare and stare at the kid like staring at a piece of modern art. We neither could sympathize nor could hate the kid for being like how he is. Is it the way of nature too?

Solaris is a similar movie, a sci-fi and I’ll be honest in saying that I didn’t understand that too but at the end of the movie I could sense that there was some brilliance in the movie. Even the commentaries in Solaris didn’t help me to understand the movie but even then I didn’t disregard the movie but here in Tree of Life the Solaris feel stayed in me only for the first half an hour .Though I was reminded of Solaris only during later part of the movie seeing the grass being pleasantly smothered by water it didn’t strike chord with me.

My friend called this film a mix of Bergman plus Space Odyssey. He has not seen Solaris otherwise his first reference too would have been Solaris. The initial scenes of Persona and Tree of Life were similar, thanks to the fire. Both are abstract films of which Persona worked wonders for me. Space Odyssey I don’t remember but I again think that Space Odyssey (with the little bit of memory I have about that movie) was far more superior to this one when we compare the pre historic period. It was lot more revealing and hugely philosophical.

Tree of life will be debated throughout. It didn’t work for me. As said by one of the critics it was too self absorbent. Instead of directing questions at us it spurts out statements which we tend to ignore. If I could have found meaning to what it tries to imply may be I’d have liked the film but it definitely looks like a farfetched dream. An illusion in itself!


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