¨The nuns taught us there were two ways through life - the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow.¨
The Tree of Life is a beautiful movie, which works more like a poem than an actual narrative. Terrence Malick has made what is in my opinion one of the closest movies to Kubrick`s 2001 A Space Odyssey. There are several similarities, including imagery, use of music, and very little amount of dialogue in the picture. There is one moment where there is no dialogue whatsoever for about thirty minutes straight, so be warned this film isn`t for the average moviegoer. Film lovers and critics alike will probably love this film thanks to the beautiful imagery; it`s truly a poetic movie and it will stick with you for days to come. It`s an exploration of the meaning of life and the existence of God. If God exists than why does he allow evil? It`s a question we all make sometimes, and Malick answers it quite simply with a verse from the book of Job in the Bible: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? ¨ Then there is a thirty minute montage of images beginning with the creation of the cosmos and universe, to the creation of Earth and the first living creatures up to the birth of a baby boy. This is where we realize that we are truly small creatures in the midst of such a vast universe. This boy ends up being the protagonist of the film as we see several flashes of memories he`s had growing up in a small Texas town. These are the experiences that have shaped him and led him to question God`s existence. In The Tree of Life, Malick manages to explore these common questions with great use of imagery. It is said that actions speak louder than words, in this case images speak louder than dialogues or typical narrative structures.
The main protagonist of The Tree of Life isn`t a character, we actually see much more imagery such as trees, water, rays of light, and other natural things, than we see people. Most of the imagery from the film comes from Jack O`Brien (Sean Penn) as we get to see his childhood memories and the things that have shaped his life up to the present day. He grew up in a small Texas town during the 50`s under the love of his caring mother, Mrs. O`Brien (Jessica Chastain), who represents the world of grace, and his stern father (Brad Pitt) who represents the world of nature (a more selfish view of the world). Jack (who is played by Hunter McCracken during his youth) is the oldest of three brothers. His fondest memories are of the three always playing together outdoors and enjoying life, although always fearing their father`s discipline. One of the moments that impacted his life was when the three were playing at a public pool and they saw a boy drown. Jack, who had up to that point lived under his mother`s vision of grace, now questions God and doesn’t understand how he could allow such a thing to happen. After his father goes away on a long business trip, Jack begins to go through a rebellious phase in which he does things he is not very proud of. We get to see all these memories and experiences Jack goes through as he recollects his past and tries to find meaning to life and the death of one of his younger brothers.
This is a movie in which every viewer will possibly leave with a different interpretation of the movie because the images can speak to us in different ways. It is a very thought provoking movie and Malick really has created a memorable and poetic film. Some of these images will remain in my mind for the rest of my life. I wasn’t really a fan of Malick`s work since I hated The New World and found The Thin Red Line quite boring, but after seeing this film I want to go back and rewatch those movies to see if perhaps my young age was a factor for it. Malick doesn’t make Blockbuster movies, but only time will tell if this film will become a cult classic. In my opinion this movie will be the most talked about film of 2011 over the next decades kind of like in the same way 2001 A Space Odyssey became such a cult fan favorite. This isn’t a movie for everyone, many won`t be interested in all the poetic imagery kind of like in the same way young kids aren`t expected to get excited about listening to classical music; they would much rather go to a rock or pop concert. The Tree of Life doesn`t have that kind of entertainment value, it`s more artistic than anything else. It makes you think about the meaning of life, and it really made me recall several moments of my own childhood. In a way, this is the same way I remember some of my own experiences throughout flashes of recollections I`ve had of my past. We all remember these vague experiences in which we first felt love, remorse, and guilt. This is truly a beautiful film and one I wouldn’t mind sitting through again.