Tuesday, January 6, 2015


No less than the film of the century so far, Terrence Malick’s staggering work of art The Tree of Life is existential cinema worthy of awe, respect, and admiration for its deep rooted interest in expanding the form as a whole. Like the best of all great art, it’s a film that’s open to interpretation from any angle, from any perspective; no two dissections of the film are correct or wrong..., correct or incorrect. This is a deeply personal movie, made by a profoundly private artist, and it will either immediately connect with the viewer or totally alienate them. The Tree of Life dares to explore where we come from as a species, how we’ve evolved as humans, and where we’re headed as a planet. It goes without saying that the performances, production values, and overall directorial vision are unified to the extreme, and in many cases, the film achieves an overall grandeur that’s above and beyond what’s normally considered perfect. Emmanuel Lubezki’s haunting, forever-dazzling cinematography may be the finest ever captured by a moving-pictures camera; there’s a distinct and unique quality to each and every image in The Tree of Life, and via the Blu-ray format, it’s beauty is next to impossible to stop admiring. The sprawling nature of the narrative is both intimate and epic, a feat that is tough to pull off, but Malick does so effortlessly, creating a dreamlike state almost immediately with his constantly darting camerawork, dreamy voice-over narration, and elliptical storytelling style. The camera always seems to be on the prowl, observing life as it unfolds, primed to capture both innocence and cruelty with a clear, non-judgmental eye. With his customarily uncanny sense and use of voice-over, startling visual imagery, layered sound design, and orchestral music, Malick takes the viewer on a tour de force journey through the creation of our universe, and then settles into a deceptively simple story of small town American life in 1950’s Texas seen thru the prism of the “traditional American family.” It’s a juxtaposition that may seem strange at first, but upon further reflection and repeated has come to symbolize one of the boldest narrative decisions this side of Kubrick’s epic jump-cut in 2001: A Space Odyssey, quite possibly the only other film that the Tree of Life bears any overall resemblance too, and even that’s a stretch. Malick wants you to consider the idea that we’re all just tiny pieces of a much larger puzzle, and that the intricacies of our life will undoubtedly remain a mystery no matter how hard we try and figure them out. The Tree of Life is cinema to be treasured, studied, and revisited countless times.

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