Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Tree of Life (2011)

Directed and Written by: Terrence Malick
Starring: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain

This film is about the circle of life for a family in a Teaxs town during the 1950s. The film focuses on the oldest of three boys in the family, Jack and his strict disciplinarian of a father (powerfully performed by Brad Pitt.) A tragedy occurs early in the film and sets the pace on how the characters play out in the story.  The film is on key with how life was like in American Suburbia, circa 1950s...a strict father, a naive mother (Jessica Chastain), children who actually play outside, and live their lives unquestionably through their parents. The mother and father are only known as Mr. and Mrs. O'Brien, because in those days children did not refer to adults by their first names.  You see as Jack struggles to carry the burden of being the oldest child in the family with feelings of hate toward his father, but you also can tell that his father is raising his kids to be be productive members of society. There is a scene where the father explains to young Jack that he was raising his boys the only way he knew how.

A film like this only comes around once in a great while. It's no mystery why this film is getting the critical acclaim that it has been receiving. This is what art is truly about; taking the thoughts and feelings of the artist and putting them on display for people to decipher. In this case, the writer/director showcases his art through the film.  Malick uses narration through the characters sharing their thoughts just as he did in his other works such as "The Thin Red Line" (1998) and "Badlands" (1973.) I did however think, that Sean Penn's character could have been developed more as the older version of Jack, now grown up and living in urban society. I understood that Penn's place in the film was the adult version of Jack, and how his childhood shaped him in adulthood, I just wish that it would have gone more in depth on the character's adult life.  The fifteen or so minute " earth creation" sequence appears to not mesh with the rest of the film, but if you dig deeper you soon realize that it does. The river plays a big element in the film.  The Brazos River runs right through what is now modern Waco and its history is traced back to pre-histoic times. There have been several excavations of Mammoth Elephants dating back 68,000 years found in the same area where the story of the film takes place.

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