5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Tree Of Life - A critical misjudgement,
This review is from: The Tree of Life [DVD] (DVD)
Given the awards that this film has won, and the glowing reviews that I read everywhere, I was expecting a masterpiece of cinematography with a complex and moving central message told with a unique style. I jumped at the chance to go and see it in the cinema and really wish that I hadn't.
To give credit where it is due, the film is in places visually absolutely stunning. The cinematography is indeed superb and worth of praise. The main problem for me was the film's message. Malick doesn't really have a lot to say, and takes an awfully long time to say it. The central story around which Malick hangs his message is that of a young boy growing up in mid fifties America, and his relationship with his bullying father and angelic mother. At some point the boy's brother dies, and we see images of his 1950's youth mixed with present day images of him still coming to terms with his childhood. All this is shown in a fractured timeframe with little logical order. Interspersed with all of this are images of the creation of the universe and earth, the evolution of life and images of a possible god like entity. The ending is just downright odd, with some sort of mystic beach perhaps supposed to represent heaven. I didn't understand that part, but by then had completely lost interest in the film.
The film meanders along for a few hours with lots of nice pictures. The stories could be interesting but ultimately don't really lead anywhere. The characters are generally completely 2 dimensional and completely unengaging, thus losing any emotional impact that the film might have had. There are lots of philosophical ramblings which appear to be asking `is there a god?' and showing us the insignificance of our place in the universe. It moves very very slowly, almost interminably, and nothing of interest actually happens. The film feels exceedingly long, with lots of jumping around and throwing in of seemingly unrelated excerpts. This makes the film appear complex, but ultimately seems to be an attempt to cover up its shortcomings.
It is a long time since I have been as bored by a film as by this. I enjoy the arty end of the film spectrum as a rule, and enjoy a good impressionistic film that goes at it's own pace (I love Ingmar Bergman's work for example, and think Th Dreyer's Vampyr is a masterpiece), but this left me cold. There was nothing in it which caught my interest. The only reason I stayed was because of the glowing reviews and the expectation that the good bit that they were all talking about would come along soon. It didn't. The film ends rather abruptly and left me thinking `was that it?'
I went to see this in a local art house cinema, about 10% of the audience walked out, and of the remainder opinion was sharply divided with about 50% loving it and 50% thinking it was pretentious twaddle.
Personally I cannot understand the acclaim that has been heaped on this film. While I admit that there are some people who may well of actually enjoyed this, it has the feel at times of a film that people think that they should like in order to appear `with it'. I found it very pretentious and uninteresting and, even worse, completely unenjoyable and unenlightening. So, two stars because I did quite like the cinematography, especially of the creation scenes. An edit of just these sections of the film would probably make an interesting IMAX film. But a work of genius worthy of gushing and fulsome praise? I am afraid not.