movie critique: 'the tree of life'

terrence malick directs
brad pitt
sean penn
jessica chastain

rating: 'perplexing'

you feel a sort of personal antipathy towards period movies due to their inability to apply existentially to your experiences on earth

you see the trailer for 'the tree of life' and think, 'seems like a less narrative-oriented version of "revolutionary road"' and consistently return to this thought whenever thoughts of the movie 'arise'

you deduce from an article on 'hipster runoff' that there are dinosaur sequences in the movie and think, 'whoa, kind of want to see this now'

you read the wikipedia page for 'the tree of life' and feel confused about the casting of sean penn as brad pitt's son, and develop further feelings of ambivalence toward seeing the movie

you read an article in 'variety' describing the movie as 'more art than cinema' or something and feel annoyed, like... 'if this is art then it's probably boring, abstract, museum-y, etc. and not something that will appeal to me on a basic emotional level... so like... why watch it?'

you 'cave' due to overwhelming desires to experience a movie with a 'cosmic scope', which you have trouble discerning the definition of

you watch the movie over the course of ~3 sittings and consistently do 'other shit' while the movie plays in the periphery

you pause the movie several times to attempt to find interviews with the director, terrence malick, but only happen upon this:

you return to the wikipedia article and feel interested in reading about the special effects in the movie

you find an article saying that the 'sfx' bro who did some of the scenes worked on '2001: a space odyssey'

you finish watching the movie and return to the original state of ambivalence re 'period pieces' and 'abstract narratives' you felt after watching the trailer, but with a heightened sense that maybe some of the events occurred in the life of the director, and validate them in an existential sense

you feel compelled to watch more movies like 'the tree of life' and 'melancholia' that juxtapose planet-level enormity with 'relatable' images of 'modern life' and recall 'diebuster' with positive sentiments


  1. i suggest you rewatch the movie. each scene has layers to it, if you watch it with your head you can't absorb them or experience them. let me give you an example of the experience of the shots work in this film. first you see a shot, say of the cosmos or something. well you could take it like most people and say oh, here is a shot of the cosmos, and think the word cosmos and not really approach it in reality, because reality is not the word cosmos, reality is the experience of them. so when the shot begins, don't think but watch the image, what you see at first changes, it dissolves into something else, there is motion in the image and then depth is displayed. the interaction of experiencing this depth is how god works, meaning god as the metaphysical experience of heightened reality. your interaction with each piece is reconnecting you to that feeling, to that source. the images are like feeling an electric guitar move through you, though more subtle. the same experience continues through the scenes with people, if you watch them in the right way layers start piling up until each shot is a symbol, pregnant with meaning for our lives. check it out again and if u still don't get it, maybe take a hit of pot.

    1. i feel 'fascination' and a 'heightened' sense of reality that induces feelings like 'awe,' 'wonder,' 'confusion,' 'unknowable depth,' and 'horror' every day without any of the abstractions presented in this movie or your description of 'how to feel [the movie's intended 'meaning'],' and thus felt i gained little from the experience of watching it

      i enjoy watching movies that exhibit a certain level of metaphysical and local depth—via the mind of the filmmaker—that affects a relationship between clear communication and a strong self-awareness of inevitable miscommunication. this film did not cause me to feel aware of that relationship nor show any attempt to 'communicate' with the audience [as far as i could tell], except the single detail that it was preserved on film, which is an explicit implication that it is a form of 'communication'

      my inability to appreciate the work, i think, is based entirely on malick's specific use of 'cinematic language,' which i don't think i can syntactically digest. i don't think i will watch the movie again for ~5 years at least, but thank you for the suggestion

  2. I really liked reading what you had to say I didn't watch the movie but I sat there on my computer as my parents watched it, they changed the channel onto it randomly and were into it but then when it got to the part at the end with Sean Penn on the beach they were perplexed. "I hate movies like these" my mother said, and "It was good till it got to all this weird stuff" my father said.
    Then my mother said "I can't imagine Brad Pitt giving birth to "something" like Sean Penn".

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