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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"The Tree of Life", the most self-indulgent film ever

The Tree of Life

Beware of someone qualified as an "author". Not saying that Terrence Malick doesn't deserve the adjective. He is a terrific filmmaker, capable of creating scenes of unparalleled beauty. In that sense, "The Tree of Life" is an achievement again, full of striking visuals and imagery. But a film is not just a collection of gorgeous images with a brilliant photography. I'm very sorry to say there's nothing more than that in Malick's film.

What I criticise with the "author" concept, and to me, the main reason why the film is a complete failure, is that Malick made it exclusively for himself, without caring a tiny bit about the audience. It might be the most self-indulgent film I ever seen.

To me, an artist aims to create a connection with his/her art with an audience. That connection can have different expressions: make you laugh, burst into tears, make you think, blow out your mind, terrify you... It links with your emotions and passions, with something inside of you. It's all about our empathy with the characters and or/the story. I remember how I got deeply moved by Malick soldiers' of "The Thin Red Line". Never been in a war, but their fear of death, their doubts and concerns about what they we're doing were completely human and understandable to me. There's no empathy at all with "The Tree of Life".

Seems the film is vastly autobiographical, so while the recreation of the fifties town is vivid and credible, his memories are just too personal to say anything to the regular viewer. What happens is... trivial, and despite the convincing acting of young Jack (Hunter McCracken) and his father (Brad Pitt) the remembrance of this childhood memories and the relationship with his parents and brothers is not particularly appealing or enlightening. Combine that with the aspiration of making a film of cosmic proportions (literally) that supposedly poses all the important questions about life & existence, and you'll have a chaotic, gigantic mess.

But it is much worse. The structure of the movie is a disaster. Every serious critic rating the film as a masterpiece should, at least, admit something's is not quite right in what regards to a film that starts as a mixture of experimental images and a drama, then turns into a long documentary on the creation of the universe, the planet and life, then moves into a drama about a kid's coming-of-age, and then ends into a surreal, experimental way. All with the addition of an ever-present off-voice, and annoyingly epic music, so you don't forget that's an essential moment of the film. Unnamed characters and yes, Sean Penn's brutally edited role, only adds more confusion to an already nonsensical film.

Enough? If not, we can talk about "THE message" of the film. From the very beginning, Malick puts the Bible as the only reference. Loss, grief, fear, desolation, love, are universal feelings that don't need a religious attempt for explanation. So why Malick only has one (extremely conservative) answer to this questions? In my opinion, because he fervently believes it, or because he needed to exorcise his demons of the past. And both aren't reasons strong enough to film this completely unidimensional, pretentious and self-indulgent movie  and getting away with it. No way. "The Tree of Life" only makes sense in Malick's head, not in the screen. Sorry, but the more I think about, the worse it becomes.

SCORE: 1,5/10

1 comment:

  1. I can't agree more!! I've just seen it and i'm really confused. I hoped to see a great movie because of the awards it won but the film doesn't deserve all this media attention...

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