“A tree’s a tree. How many more do you need to look at?” Ronald Reagan
Watched Terrence Malick’s last film The Tree this week. Malick has taken his time with his films, working on this one for decades. He’s "only" made seven films in a 35-year career, but his films Badlands and Days of Heaven are two of the most beautifully filmed movies of all time and this one is gorgeous, too.
It’s lightly existential…a great film to watch when you’re in the mood to consider your life, your family, and the world you live in without delving too deeply into any of it…
That said, the film opens with the loss of one of the sons and the mothers consequent grief. I had a hard time getting through it because I can’t imagine losing a child and the actress’ portrayal of her sorrow was palpable. I kept wondering about my strong opinion that one should watch EVERY film a director one likes makes in order to watch their development and understand their cannon of films in context; maybe this isn’t necessary for me anymore now that I don’t work in film; it certainly doesn’t seem necessary to watch a film about the loss of a child when I’m pregnant.
The film is about three boys growing up in the 1950’s with their mother, a free spirit, and their father, a ‘hard ass’ who is sometimes affectionate (played by Brad Pitt). The story considers the origins and meaning of life, and death, in general and as it pertains to the boys’ lives and experiences. The film premiered in competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it won a Palme d’Or, and was met with rave reviews from critics but was actually booed at the screening (a tough reaction particularly as the filmmakers and actors are present). Depending on whom you speak to, the sci-fi meets surrealist themes and imagery were seen as both imaginative and independently minded, or pretentious and boring. I found that the fragmented and non-linear narrative actually is how memories are remembered, and as it’s a story told in the present about the past, this seems appropriate and interesting. There is an argument for it’s being indulgent and meandering. However, in a world of films that appeal to the lowest common denominator and rely on frenetic images and action, this nicely paced, philosophically light film is refreshing.
But maybe hold off until you’re not pregnant or haven’t just had a child and your hormones aren’t blasting through your body.