The Tree of Life
In short – a delicate symphony of a human life and nature evolution.
Terrence Malick finally presents his fifth feature film “The Tree of Life” that took six years for him to make. Remembering his earlier works, such as “Days of Heaven”, “The New World”, “Badlands” and “Thin Red Line”, a word “astonishing” fits here perfectly. And the latest work is not an exception. “The Tree of Life” – a drama that keeps your intensive attention for more than two hours is worth watching just because of the camera work and the huge amounts of questions that pops in your head while watching. And remains there for a long time.
The film captures with incredible views of nature, moving composition of sounds and incredibly simple yet not a cheap plot. The story evolves around the life of a Texas family in 1950s where three boys are growing surrounded by loving mother and demanding father and with the oldest boy Jack trying to find answers to the eternal questions of life. Non-linear narrative (tricky, but not so complicated as in Christopher Nolan`s “Memento”) and parallel with quite long shots of nature requires constant attention to the plot and gives satisfaction after the film is over and all the story is finally complete.
The duet of Brad Pitt (the old one and good one) and Jessica Chastain (fresh face on the big screen) as Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien is convincing. They fulfil the roles of two extremely opposite parents: a daydreamer and a bit childlike mother and career-seeking and strict father. Sean Penn – the adult Jack – has the same wise and critical look as the young Jack – Hunter McCracken. The nicest scene belongs to the Jack at the age of two (Finnegan Williams) when he is strolling around his younger brother`s cradle looking a bit worried about his further position in the family. The importance of this scene is the feeling of Jack as loosing his place in his family and supposing unsecurity – this theme will be relevant in the future life of the boy. The acting of Jessica Chastain gives a sweet impression of a mother, who is into family more than anyone else. And she fits there more than anywhere else. Maybe because of this particular sense Chastain received Hollywood Breakthrough Award yet the role itself is very non-Hollywoodian.
Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki who collaborated with Malick in “The New World”, follows the life of a family from different perspectives. And then it is! The key moments are captured – first steps of a child, goodbying hands on the opposite sides of the window, cosy childhood home space and big ascetic bureau buildings of glass. And the tree. And the eyes of young Jack, trying to be the one he is not. Finally, five editors formed a continious story interrupted by views of various forms of nature. Besides digital dinosaurs, some mermaidish women in a water waiving hands artificially, every shot in the movie is where it belongs to be. Oh, music. The work of composer in this movie Alexandre Desplat is brilliant: the classical music strenghtens the impression of eternity and connects all the view together. Music, visuals and the feeling it gives altogether is the trinity of the film.
And finally there is a unique dialogue. Where a few are talking while the only one is listening. Religious theme. God is the one who opens the movie (“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation … while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?“) and he is the only character that no one has ever seen but his significance is undeniable. Jack is praying. His mother is praying. Prayer is the conversation and at the same time – it is search for the answers. Religion supposed to lead to the right way, but the answer depends on you. There are a lot of the cinematic experiments to question philosophical issues, but Terrence Malick manages to make it in a such precise manner, that visuals, Bible, Mozart and lost adult (who is still a small boy inside) provides a simple and clear answer, but to find it, you have to wait till the end, decoding symbols and catching relevant details. This is the nicest work while watching the film and pleasant one.
The winner of Palme d`Or at the Cannes Film Festival “The Tree of Life” bursts on the screen like a tree with all its natural beauty and strenght impossible to resist.
By Indre Audenyte