The Tree of Life [2011]

The Tree of Life follows the upbringing of three boys in 1950’s Texas by a domineering father and a nurturing mother. It leaps from there to a brilliant chapter where we see the wonders of Nature: cells dividing, volcanoes erupting, dinosaurs walking the Earth. Those images are stunning, yes, but they don’t really connect seamlessly with the main story. Apparently, they don’t have to. These scenes have been described as not “narratively connected” but “thematically complementary”. I don’t exactly agree with that idea, since I felt I was watching two completely separate films.

A pair of general notions can be extracted from this dazzling albeit pretentious experiment by Malick, one of them being that every living creature on this planet has a tendency for violence. A second one, the most evident (and one which many other works of art have dealt with) is that each and every one of us, despite how highly we think of ourselves, are minuscule compared to the scope of the Universe.

Tree of Life is grandiloquent and overreaching, but it’s also the most visually arresting film I’ve ever seen. Props go out to Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and special effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull. The acting is very impressive, as well. Next-big-thing Jessica Chastain and newbie Hunter McCracken are great in their breakthrough roles but it’s Brad Pitt who renders the best work in this unique film.

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