Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul."

Some exploratory thoughts on Tree of Life. Spoilers ahead.

Tree of Life is undoubtedly the most important film of the year. It's the most ambitious American film I can think of. Period. Brandon invoked Bresson. I invoked Tarkovsky. Others have made Kubrick comparisons. That's the level we're talking about here. Major Leagues. Big stakes filmmaking.

I'm going to be negative below. Please understand that I respect and maybe even love this movie. I'm trying to figure out why I still have reservations.

As Brandon stated, Tree of Life is a cinematic prayer.

It is beautiful.

It is meditative.

It is sterile.

Ah, there's the rub.

Malick begins his film with God's "where were you?" challenge to Job.

Then, we're slowly introduced to one family's specific suffering and the context of that suffering.

Except that, as I said in the car, there is no emotional hook. The center of gravity in the film is the death of a son/brother. This is the center. I think. But, the reality of it is never felt. Brandon and Jeff related to the family dynamics, and I get that, but that's only part of the whole. Even that part I don't think was convincingly developed so much as you two read in personal experience.

Unlike the book of Job, there is no anguish here. This is supposed to be prayer, right? This is nothing like the Psalms or like Job's lament. In comparison, it feels clinical. Detached. The voiceover narrations that structure and guide the film-as-prayer are whispered and calm, almost resigned. There is no struggle. The images offer no further help. Even the dinosaurs are at peace. And cosmic awakenings are gentle.


Disclaimer: I watched Tree of Life on 3 hours of sleep. I do not function well in that condition. There were several times during the movie when I found that I had fallen asleep for a few seconds and then jolted awake. It was a struggle to stay awake.

I am going to see it again with Abigail, most likely the second week in July down on LI. I'm trusting that the wide release will happen and that Tree of Life will definitely still be playing somewhere down there at that time.

I'm done for now. Things to do.

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