We went to watch this film the other day. I had not heard of it, nor read any of the reviews- rather we had an opportunity to go and watch a’ grown up film’ for the first time in ages, and this one looked interesting.
The director, Terrence Malcik, appears to be using the film as an intimate exploration of the meaning of life and of faith.
Is it any good?
Well- the first thing to say is that it made us cry- several times. This might be because we do not get out much, but it is also because if it is full of tender lovely moments. The photography is stunning at times, and the acting (Penn, Pitt and the mesmeric Jessica Chastain) is brilliant.
Not to mention the performances of the young kids.
At times it is rambling, and certainly pretentious (although all good films need to be to a certain extent.) Then there is the rather overblown creation/evolution imagery- including a rather dodgy CGI dinosaur.
And the lovely music/image combinations-
Is this a great film? I think not- it is too flawed, too rambling, too indulgent.
Is it a great experience- yes.
What about the theology? Not sure what to say here- Malick’s conclusion after all his meanderings seem to be that life is beautiful, precious- but if we do not love it flashes by. He also finishes with a strange afterlife scene where everyone is united on some kind of beach at dusk.
Watch it- and enjoy the tender moments. You may forgive him the rest.
I have to say- on the way out of the cinema, a young attendant asked people if they enjoyed the film, and in front of us a very grumpy man barked- ‘Was it POSSIBLE to enjoy it?’ He had sat through the whole thing though…
So- having collected some of my own thoughts, I went to look at what the critics said about the film. It has certainly divided opinion- one critic pointed out that there was only one consonant between ‘comic’ and ‘cosmic’- whilst others called it a masterpiece. Some just said it was ‘Christian’ as if this was enough to sum up this film.
I find myself in full agreement of this review in the Guardian.
The Tree of Life may well come to be seen as this decade’s great Christian artwork. But I still prefer to think of it as something other than that. Just as Dietrich Bonhöffer called for a religionless Christianity, so the movie for me created a Christianityless metaphysics.
It is a magnificent, toweringly ambitious and visionary work – brilliantly shot by Emmanuel Lubezki, passionately felt, and deeply serious in its address to the audience. The Tree of Life is about the inner crisis of a tormented man in his middle years and the terrible unchangeability of the past. As this man briefly forces himself to consider his own negligible place in the universe, the film gestures at the unimaginable reaches of geological and stellar time, depicting nothing less than the origins of the cosmos and man himself in a colossal Kubrickian symphony of images.