I admit this is a re-issued blog but I missed my deadline. Hope you find it interesting!
I don't usually do film reviews in my blog and I am not going to do one now, but a film is the topic. I love the oh-so-rare film that doesn't just hand you the cast, the plot and a two sentence road map that explains its purpose before you step in the theatre. Two of my top top favorite films of all time are 2001: A Space Odyssey and It's a Wonderful Life. Neither film can be digested with a single viewing. I have seen 2001 a dozen times and each time I have new insights into its meaning. I have seen that great Capra film dozens of times as well, and each time am touched on a deeper and deeper emotional level and see how powerful this film reflects on our society.
These kind of films are partially visual Rorschach tests as the viewer (like any piece of art) has to sift out his/her own meaning like panning for gold in a flowing river. I do not think I am putting Terrence Malik's The Tree of Life on that top shelf with the two aforementioned movies, but it did inspire thought. And I will definitely watch it again and it might, in fact, be placed at the top.
"I don't wanna think when I watch a movie or TV."
GOD I hate when people say that. I am not even sure I understand what that means. To me that also means "I don't wanna feel anything when I watch a movie or TV". Do these people want a single busy signal tone droning in their heads while the movie or TV show plays? Will a black void descend upon them? I'm not trying to be a pseudo intellectual or Mr. Pedantic, but for me, nothing is more entertaining and FUN, then being made to ponder and extrapolate meaning from entertainment. And it doesn't have to be only with "high brow" films. I find incredible meaning and purpose from This is Spinal Tap. We can all find meaning in the smallest of events. And this really is the point of the movie, which I will get to later.
I noticed a polarized reaction to The Tree of Life which to me is a good sign for any form of entertainment. The film in its simplest terms, (at least this is the nugget I filtered out) is about living life via our animal or our angelic nature. It is a choice we all make.
Humans are after all one of the endless forms of animal life on this amazing planet that floats as a spec in this amazing and mind-bogglingly humongous Universe. Life can be a horror. Toss aside war and famine and crime and reality TV. Just the day to day survival of say, a worm. How many times must this poor bugger worry, while going out to get his mail, if this will be the day he crosses fates with the early bird?
In the film, Brad Pitt plays a father of two young boys who he is trying to train to be tough to survive life's challenges. Though he can be affectionate at times with them is he mostly a heartless and often cruel SOB. His wife, on the other hand, teaches her boys that when you get down to it, love and only love, is what gives life purpose. Love transcends matter. Maybe even time. Without getting into the plot points of the film, we see how these two diverse world-views affect one child, Jack, from his kid-hood through adult hood (played by Sean Penn) and, seemingly, beyond that.
Malik uses beautiful imagery of the Cosmos and the evolution and formation of life. He takes us back to the time of the dinosaurs. The graphics were reminiscent of 2001 and this was actually intentional as many of the same methods (not CGI) were used to create them. He lets us see infinity in moments. He takes us back to life emerging and stars exploding. The two images that in sublime ways illustrate the opposing world views are a. ) a mysterious cosmic flame. and b.) a dying dinosaur on a riverbed.
So we can relish infinity in the tiny moments of life or we can, like a dying dinosaur in a river bed, be casually sniffed and forgotten. Left to rot like a fallen leaf. Or we can peer into the rainbow of a dead leaf and see the Cosmos.
I do need to watch this film again since I still feel like I am trying to assemble and extrapolate more of its meaning. That, to me, is the sign of great filmmaking.
Mike Dicerto is the writer/director of the feature film Triptosane. He is also the author of the kidlit series The Adventures of Rupert Starbright. The Door to Far-Myst is book 1 and book 2, The Secret of My-Myst will be available later this month. www.mikedicerto.com