DVD review | The Tree of Life – Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or winner: Brilliant or baffling?

Terrence Malick’s Cannes film festival Palme d’Or winner is a work that has some viewers swooning in rapture yet leaves others baffled and bored. It looks fabulous, full of luminous and lyrical images, but the plot and meaning are tricky to pin down.

The film appears to be semi-autobiographical, at least in part, with the bulk of the action taking place in a nostalgically remembered 1950s Texas as recalled years later by Sean Penn’s middle-aged Jack. (Malick grew up in Waco, Texas.) Played as a boy by a warily intense Hunter McCracken, Jack is the eldest of three sons of a disciplinarian father (Brad Pitt) and gentle mother (Jessica Chastain), his childhood a mix of feral adventures outdoors with his brothers and friends, and intense battles of wills indoors with his stern father.

The narrative is far from straightforward. Overlaid with a poetic voiceover reminiscent of Malick’s other films (Badlands and Days of Heaven from the 1970s and the more recent The Thin Red Line and The New World), the story flits back and forth in the way of fragmentary memories. Early on, we learn of a family tragedy and the film veers off into a bizarre exploration of the mysteries of Creation, visiting the origins of life on Earth in a stunning montage of images embracing everything from volcanoes to dinosaurs.

Profound or pretentious? Take your pick. (As for me, I struggled with the dream-like coda set on a beach, which seems to offer Jack redemptive closure.) Whether or not you go along with Malick’s philosophical musings about the ‘way of nature’ and the ‘way of grace’ (the alternative life paths offered by father and mother), his brilliantly acted and photographed film evokes the emotional turmoil of childhood, its resentment, pains and joys in a way that few other filmmakers can match.

Released on DVD & Blu-ray on Monday 31st October from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

If you can see this, then you might need a Flash Player upgrade or you need to install Flash Player if it's missing. Get Flash Player from Adobe.

To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.

This entry was posted in DVD Releases, DVD Reviews, The Best View and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to DVD review | The Tree of Life – Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or winner: Brilliant or baffling?

  1. I loved this film and was genuinely moved by this film. So much that I blogged about it, my first and only movie review in fact: http://www.zoegolightly.com/2011/06/05/the-tree-of-life-terrence-malick-movie-review/ but it was the abundance of questions that this film prodded, and the lack of answers that gave me such a wildly deep, personal and intimate experience.

    Jason I’m not sure if you’re in LA, but if you are you must check out the premiere “The Wayshower” – March 8th at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome. Starring Oscar nominees Eric Roberts and Sally Kirkland – with script and direction from NY Times #1 Bestselling Author and Spiritual Teacher John-Roger, this movie is resonant of the brilliant subtlety and experiential nature of “Tree of Life”, yet with more narrative and context.

    If you’re interested the Press Release is online: http://bit.ly/prtwpremiere.

    Thanks again for the wonderful review of The Tree of Life. Loved it.

    xooxox Zoe

  2. Mary says:

    I completely agree with Zoe and most of the critiques I have read. This is a film that speaks to the senses,it moves you and makes you think, question, while being a feast for the eyes, as well as the soul. The music, curiously reminded me of my own father, a man of grace not nature, who loved “The Moldau”, one of the beautiful pieces of music in this marvelous film.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>