“The Tree of Life” The Film of Pretentiousness
“The Film of Pretentiousness”
“Hotshots” looks at a movie!
The Tree of Life won the Palme D’or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, which says something more about the French than it does about this film.
Written and directed by Terrence Malick, well-known, reclusive, but slow-working filmmaker, this is only his fifth feature-length film, his first being the 1973 Badlands, which has a cult following, as do most of Malick’s films.
I believe it is safe to say that Malick’s films are an acquired taste, and I found his latest one to be distasteful.
No, “distasteful” is such an ugly word. Let’s just call it boring and pretentious.
The film contains very little dialogue within scenes that are part of what little story there is, and most of the dialogue is voice-over narration, such as when Mrs. O’Brien says at the beginning of the film, “The nuns taught us there were two ways through life–the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow.”
Then we see the first of the scenes that will develop this theme, which involve the O’Brien family, Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien, played by Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain, and their three boys, the oldest of whom, Jack, is played by Sean Penn as a grown-up.
Although most of the scenes about the family take place in the 1950s in Texas, sometime in the Sixties Mrs. O’Brien receives a telegram that one of the boys is dead, when he was 19.
So, then we see scenes of grief, hear lots of voice-over spiritual narration, and then we experience a long sequence of images that actually depict the beginning of the cosmos, the planet, the beginnings of life, and, yes, even dinosaurs.
Two women in the theater walked out at this point, before the film got back to the story of the O’Brien family in the Fifties, beginning with the birth of Jack.
Mr. O’Brien is a strict disciplinarian who demands that everyone obey him, but also profess their love for him. He represents nature.
Mrs. O’Brien plays wildly with abandon with the boys when Mr. O’Brien is away on a business trip. She represents grace.
However, the story is weak to begin with, and the film is made even weaker with all the spiritual visual images.
The Tree of Life is the film of pretentiousness.
I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”