Tree of life (Malick, 2011)

What the Fuck was that?!

NO no I understand  shooting in pretend 8 mm home movie style of the fifties from a defense suburb home about a strict, uncompromising father and a soft wallflower mother. I understand why someone would mistake Sean Penn’s own tiny life as the end objective of creation itself  from the big bang to the English speaking church. I also understand that this might be the right time to resurrect the ghost of unhappy 1950’s family life in a way speilberg could only dream of doing.

My question to you Terrence , is what the heck were you doing with a movie camera making such unadulterated tripe?!

If Intentions were fully formed film, then Tree of Life would be a bona fide creation. This experimental feature , however, is stylistically Barkhage and warhol and emotionally a methamphetamine trip down the memory lane that not only marks the film as different from  films of today, it also pushes the limits of a viewer’s endurance  to breaking point  with its wide angle close ups and (deliberately) badly composed monochromatic shots and half sentence dialog.

Tree of life doesn’t disturb you as much as it exasperates you with its pretentiousness. if empty was what it was shooting for, there’s plenty of “wtf” emptiness in the film, which probably won the cannes prize on its hot air alone.

Malick is no Khiarostami or Weerasethakul in his insightful analysis. His earlier movies were exercises in empathic heart not deep intellectual analytical breadth of vision. Having made his name as the thinking filmmaker of the flower children, his spiel in large measure comes from his “everything is connected to everything else” messages that resonate to this day with baby boomers. Here he attempts to connect up some pretty far flung coordinates.


Malick’s gaia theory of mother being like water and like nature and father being like the will and the male organizing principle (grace/God) sounds somewhat simplistically self indulgent.  The Teleology that malick is working towards holds that the big bang and the creation (and extinction) of predatory dinosaurs  is the work of the gently observant mother nature, even as the puny will to dominate arrogates to itself the male imperative of aggressive power.  In the long run, only the very central coast hippie love remains , everything else washes to emptiness.

So far so good. the problem comes in the narration of this through the spastic montage  of events that jerk the picture along willy nilly giving one the impression that the story is told by a developmentally disabled child to other developmentally disabled children. while this works like an enormously successful joke played on the audience, the device comes across as less art than pointless artifice.

Some of the special effects are pretty and some of the nature shots rise to the level of a disney nature flic, although not to the authority of a film made by an auteur (like chris marker’s films come to mind), The pointless pretty  of a Baraka or Koyanisquatsi dogs  the film’s pretty images, they also feel  somewhat anachronistic for a 1950’s period film.

There are a few very Norman Rockwell  moments in the film, though, if you can pause the  shots strategically.

The tree of life : dead.


About rameshram

Name : Ramesh Ram... Email Address : (don't even ask) Blog: (never updated) Height/ Weight: 6'1 175 (varies between 160 and 185) Color of hair/ eyes black/ brown Bald? Nope (not yet, but give me 20 years.) Interests: Film (Bollywood/international indie), Travel (Germany/Japan/Central America/Sout/east/west Asia/ Northern Africa), Gizmo geek, Clubbing... What do I like in a good movie?: Women, Music, Auters, Special effects, Style. What do I like in a bad movie?: Women, Music, Auters, Special effects, Style. Favorite Critic: International: Bazin Domestic: J Hobermann Indian : me. (noone else comes close ...India or here..) Best quality: Humility. Outspokenness. Warmth Worst quality: Intolerence Favorite color : Yellow Black Blue Favorite Perfume : men: Grey Flannel(Geoffery Beene) Women: Celine dion: Obsession Boxers / briefs : Boxers Did I inhale: And how! Author: Marquiz, Rushdie, Murakami, Jong Last Book: The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton, Catherine A. Liszt Music : Patricia Kass, Alejandro Sanz,Nina Simone, Amir Diab Sports person: What am I usually in : White briefs and tees. Chianti or Burgandy: Chianti Food: French Japanese(street/fast food). Saw and liked: No Country for old men, Lust Caution Saw and disliked: Nishabd Didnt see: Aaja Nach le. Call me: Write me first.
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