I saw the Tree of Life at a baby friendly cinema session and I watched it while either holding, feeding or walking my daughter up and down the aisle. Also while crying because the movie made me weep. But then it’s easy to pull the heart strings of someone who has just had a baby.
There is a 20 minute sequence which depicts the creation of the universe and there appears to be some intent to portray the miracle of life with reference to beauty in art and music and nature.
Intellectually, I understand this. Emotionally, I was only touched by the acting of Pitt and the eldest son, played by Hunter Mcracken.
The mother’s role was mostly silent. Maybe she was portraying the feminine aspect of the world. Passive, embracing, emotional. Silent disapproval rather than active aggression.
I spent a lot of time pondering on the symbolism of the film. I’m not sure if it’s rather blatantly obvious or just misguidedly over the top.
I barely realised that the movie had a plot. IMDB says it was about the following:
The impressionistic story of a Texas family in the 1950s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father. Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith.
I definitely didn’t get that. I did wonder which son Sean Penn was meant to be and was convinced he was the middle one, the eldest being the subject of the phone call at the start of the movie.
The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki was beautiful but clinically so. Framing the shot while showing it made me think of the person behind the camera rather than the scenery.
It felt like a movie about the miracle of raising a child by someone who had never changed a nappy or been splattered by porridge.
I felt the miracle of life a lot more while feeding my daughter in the middle of an allotment last week than I did while watching Malick’s rendition of the beginning of time while listening to Lacrimosa from Requiem for My Friend by Zbigniew Preisner (source).
The Tree of Life is showing at the Watershed in Bristol until August 4.