Tree of Life – A Preview

Mesmoring” said one critic.  “Brilliant” said another. Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian called it “a hugely ambitious and passionate masterpiece”. This is but a fraction of the praise that has been poured on The Tree of Life, winner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and the fifth film in 30 years from visionary auteur Terrence Malick.


I have tried to stay away from any spoilers for the film in an attempt to go into the movie with an open mind.  But seeing as the film has been out since June and has been discussed in every corner of the internet, it has been practically impossible.  What I do know about the “plot” is that on the surface, The Tree of Life is the story of Jack (Sean Penn) and his journey through childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he attempts to “reconcile a complicated relationship with his father”.  If it were any other director the film might be as simple as it sounds, but Terrence Malick is the acclaimed director of films such as Badlands and Days of Heaven, so this is surely to be highly original take on these themes and will certainly demand a lot more from your average cinema goer.


You see, despite the films high praise and its label the best film in 40 years, its Rotten Tomatoes score is only at 86%, and certain bloggers have dared to go against mainstream opinion.  Critics, such as Vicky Fabbri from The Electric Fleapit, have spoken out against the majority declaring “I came out thoroughly frustrated – it wasn’t a pleasure to watch. But there was something good in there. It was art.”  Furthermore, eccentric Director Uwe Boll came out and called the film “a piece of shit” and even its own star Sean Penn has gone on record as stating “…frankly, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing there.”


Despite the mixed reviews, the fact remains that you don’t necessarily watch Art House Cinema looking to be entertained. You go to be challenged and stimulated, visually or otherwise as film as art adheres to a different set of values to mainstream cinema.  One person will see The Tree of Life as a masterpiece. Another, pretentious and boring.  It’s uncertain as to what the reaction to The Tree of Life will be.  But the one thing I do know for certain, is that I can’t wait to see it!


(first published in Octobers issue of Grove Korea Magazine)

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