14 October 2011

Tree of Life

Tree of Life was quite good. Just the music and sound design make it a good theatre experience. I do have some reservations. The movie is rather take it or leave it. Specifically, the photography goes over like a really pretty stream too much like an Anthropologie catalog. The Texas section is a big offender in that regard, but what makes the pacing seem slack may just be the nonlinear nature of the film and my taking it in on a first viewing. Technically, it's nice, but after awhile it feels really lazy, narratively. It's heavy on the theology, too. A chunk of it is like a Christian tone poem. One person on the Criterion Forum called it a "Complaint-Psalm-meets-Creation-Hymn" and another "an elaboration of the Requiem Mass." I can't say that's inaccurate, but your mileage may vary. The voiceovers during the cosmic sequences bugged me greatly. It seemed too on-the-nose during those moments. Voiceovers during the Texas sequences worked fine, though. Those scenes were the trademark Malick moments and the human element there burnished the scenes with some voiceover. Brad Pitt is great as the dad, but Jessica Chastain gets treated like a saint. I would have loved more character development for her. She's pretty and communicates well with her face so not doing more with her talent felt like a missed opportunity. I mention her beauty because it kinda made her sink into that background like a model. Her bond with the kids in the film felt like a core element of the film and it worked very well as a contrast to Pitt, but as I searched about to connect more with the characters I'd hoped that she'd get to be another anchor as well. Anyway, that's what I thought. This one will have to grow with me when it hits DVD. Those were my big complaints, though. I may see it again in the theatre. I'm a classical music lover so the music really meant a lot to me. Philosophically and photographically, I'm not sure how you'll react. The Christianity in the film may seem rather risible, but it melts away when the cosmos is rolling along or the music is playing gorgeously. Malick throws in some great Tarkovsky moments that also meant a lot to me. Again, this is great to see in the theatre, especially one with a good sound system. I love The Thin Red Line and Days of Heaven, but this one lacks a certain spark that those two have. At least this one has dinosaurs and Gorecki, though.

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