Tuesday, August 2, 2011
The Tree of Life: A Maddening and Beautiful Tapestry
If one was to stand in front of an incredibly beautiful tapestry filled with rich colors, incredible detail and amazing artistic vision and execution, you would attempt to drink it all in en masse and probably struggle in the effort. Afterward the initial foray, small details would begin to entrance your eyes and hypnotically pull you in. You might even lose the concept of the entire piece if you went deep enough.
If you were in both a tactile and vandelous state of mind, you might even begin to pick at one of the loose luxurious threads. Do that too long and the entire work could unravel at your feet.
The cinematic tapestry and tone poem that is Terrence Mallick's "The Tree of Life" fits the bill on all of the above counts. It is one of the most amazing, stunning, beguiling works that I have ever witnessed. Yet it is fragile and can easily be skewered by one who "picks at the threads" too long. I choose not to do that but rather to consume this feast in its entirety, appreciating it for the ambitious, personal effort that it is.
How does a film go from the death of a nineteen year old son to the birthing of the universe? How does it then return to the fragility of a family under the loving but diametrically opposed gravities of a tough, sometimes ruthless father and a childlike, nurturing mother? All the while, it strikes scenes of such intimacy, such beauty that they can scarcely be described. Tension continues to grow in so many different layers during this that at times it becomes uncomfortable, striking notes that many have gone through in their own childhood.
The acting is incredible and Brad Pitt gives an exemplary performance as the domineering Texas father. Jessica Chastain is tragic and believable as the innocent and protective mother. For me, the most incredible acting comes from young Hunter McCracken as young Jack (played by Sean Penn as an adult.) You constantly see and feel the see the internal conflict between love and violence in his face and eyes. For me, it was mesmerizing and painful to watch.
I will be shocked if this film isn't a major player next year during awards season. That being said, is it for everybody? I think not. It requires both patience and commitment to give up a neat, linear experience and indulge in the timelessness of memory and feelings as crafted by a true master. If that describes you, you are in for quite a worthwhile ride.
Here is a review from a "spiritual director" in London. This will assist you with more info if you choose to see this: http://www.lfpress.com/comment/2011/08/02/18499111.html