Catching up on 2011: The Tree of Life

MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★
What to make of The Tree of Life? Superbly shot, experimental, ambitious in rather epic proportions but altogether rather disengaging. I can see why it might be some people’s film of the year but I can’t say I can agree with that.

With not a great deal going on for 135 minutes, besides the birth and death of life, it does really get rather tiring. Much like Melancholia also this year, a film which was oozing with pretension to a sickening degree, The Tree of Life takes a massive, universal backdrop and tries to shine a light on a few small characters against its enormity.It certainly doesn’t make me angry like Melancholia, which is at least one thing in its favour.

Director Terrence Malick has clearly spent an awful lot of time thinking about some superb shots which just aren’t matched by a compelling screenplay. But there are plenty of shots that are superb, that you cannot deny. You feel like there’s a lot of magic going on in the mind of Malick but he can’t quite get it all down on film.

Towards the beginning of the film contains the most gorgeous evolution and dinosaur sequence, beautifully tracking the start of life through utterly captivating visuals. The special effects at the beginning are rather special, and I can’t believe anyone won’t be wowed by the film’s depiction of the creation of the universe. The question is, how does all of this hang together with this quiet, 1960s family tragedy going on for the bulk of the movie. The problem is, for me, is that it does not.

There’s a lot that’s meant to be interpreted and if you can find some thread giving it all some sort of purpose, well done, but I’m struggling. It tries to be extrememly clever without really justifying it, namely without creating any real sense of place or character within the family the film follows, beyond something appearing vaguely like a sort of bible parable.

Maybe the easiest way to sum it up: I wanted more dinosaurs.


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