It’s all about life

So Wednesday I did the scene of the day, which was a scene from the tree of life. I will start reviewing each movie the scene comes from on Fridays, and so this is a Friday haha I am reviewing The Tree of Life. I saw this movie last year at the Tampa Theater, and then again a couple months later on t.v. So I watched it twice, and it has stuck with me ever since. These reviews will mostly be sort of analyses rather than straightforward “this was good, this was bad, the acting was good, blah blah.” Of course I will put those aspects in the beginning, but I am always interested in the deeper meaning of things and how they shape my life. I mean, that’s why I love film and books- the messages and the impact they have and how those aspects are executed are what make them the best movies and books to me. If you have seen this film feel free to share your thoughts on it. I am curious to see what other people have to say about it.  so here it is, hope you enjoy 🙂 :

“Help each other. Love everyone. Every leaf. Every ray of light. Forgive.”

          The Tree of Life is an impressionistic story of a Texas family in the 1950s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith. Before I get into analyzing the film and its theme/purpose (my favorite part) I have to point out a few things that stood out to me when watching this extraordinary film. I said previously in my scene of the day post that I am not a religious person but this film does deal with some abstract ideas dealing with faith and religion. It is not preachy though, so it was not annoying or over the top. So still give it a try even if you are an atheist like me. The cinematography is something I want to point out. I have never seen a more beautifully shot movie than this one. Every scene is breathtaking; it really gave the film an awe inspiring feel, with its sweeping visuals of nature and space. Even the simplest scenes were shot with great detail and photographed beautifully. The acting was also top notch as well. Of course Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn were incredible, but the young actor playing the main boy was just as talented. He evoked such emotion and really brought life to his character. I was very impressed and hoped to see more of him. The story could be confusing for someone who has trouble looking at the big picture of things and understanding abstract ideals, it moves around quite a bit. But focus on the story as it moves through time and it will make sense; it did for me even though I was confused for the first 45 minutes.

Now, the stories in this movie do not unfold, revelation following revelation, culminating in a definable message or theme. There is no moral, no hero, and no emotional epiphanies. What it presents is an extraordinarily haunting vision of childhood, how the things we love the most are fragile yet immensely powerful; The things that connect us, separate us, and bewilder us – again and again and throughout our lives. Nature is used heavily in this film as a symbol for life, death and the in-between. We look to outside forces as way to understand ourselves and our purpose in life. Nature is something that we can recognize ourselves in and take inspiration from. It is hardest to look within ourselves for answers and an understanding of why we are living. What is the meaning of life? How do we live with pain? Where do we go at the end? This film tackles these questions through the format of a series of vignettes depicting a family’s life. Malick’s scenes portray a childhood in a town in the American midlands, where life flows in and out through open windows (another symbol). There is a father who maintains discipline and a mother who lives with forgiveness, and long summer days of play and idleness and urgent unsaid questions about the meaning of things. The three boys of the O’Brien family are, disturbed by glimpses of adult secrets, filled with a great urgency to grow up and discover who they are.

Since this is told from a child’s perspective as he matures, the themes of loss of innocence, questioning social norms and wondering why things are the way they are, are the most present in the film. The parents are named Mr. O’Brien and Mrs. O’Brien. They are never really called by first names. This is because the parents of other kids were never thought of by their first names, and the first names of your own parents were words used only by others. Your parents were Mother and Father, and they defined your reality, and you were open to their emotions, both calming and alarming. And Jack O’Brien is growing, and someday will become Mr. O’Brien, but will never seem to himself as real as his father did.

The film’s portrait of everyday life, inspired by Malick’s memories of his hometown of Waco, Texas, is bounded by two elements, one of space and time, and the other of spirituality. “The Tree of Life” has awe-inspiring visuals suggesting the birth and expansion of the universe, the appearance of life on a microscopic level and the evolution of species. This process leads to the present moment, and to all of us. We were created in the Big Bang and over untold millions of years, molecules formed themselves into, human forms.  The main question asked in this movie is, what comes after. In whispered words near the beginning, “nature” and “grace” are heard. We have seen nature as it gives and takes away; one of the family’s boys dies. We also see how it works with time, as Jack O’Brien grows into a middle-aged man). And what then? The film’s ending provides a vision of an afterlife, a desolate landscape on which quiet people solemnly recognize and greet one another, and everything is understood in the completion of time. The saddest, most insightful, most poignant portrayal of a family I have ever seen.


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