The roots of life and love

2011-08-12 12:22

This is not the kind of film you can sit back and let wash over you.

Eccentric director Terrence ­Malick demands not only the viewer’s full attention, but ­participation too.

He forces the viewer to ­analyse, wonder and ponder from the first frame to the last and beyond.
Brad Pitt stars as Mr O’Brien, the traditional head of a 1950s American family.

Jessica Chastain stars as his wife and they have three sons.

The Tree of Life (Ster Kinekor) is not told in a ­familiar narrative form and is partially ­narrated by Sean Penn, whom it turns out is the ­grown-up version of their oldest son Jack.

The film is not linear and the viewer is given the story in ­pieces that have to be ­painstakingly reassembled into a mosaic of life – on both a ­personal and an ­infinite scale.

While the O’Brien family cope with that most unthinkable thing, the loss of a child and brother, Malick juxtaposes their very personal grief with a ­sequence depicting evolution from the big bang.

As always, Pitt gives a brilliant performance as the father who unwittingly damages his eldest son’s emotional development with his authoritarian parenting, which is thrown into stark relief by Mrs O’Brien’s gentleness.

Malick makes few films; this is only his fifth full-length movie in four decades.

Among his other films are ­Badlands, The Thin Red Line and, most recently in 2005, The New World, which stars Colin Farrell and explores the clash between John Smith and the First Nation people of the United States.

The story is a family drama, but Malick’s canvas is vast?– vast enough to include not ­only the O’Brien’s family tree, but that of every living creature on the ­planet.

In the end, though, it is the story of healing, and of a son coming to terms with his father.

I did find it to be a little too long and perhaps a little ­grandiose in its ambitions.

But The Tree of Life is a thought-provoking piece that ­preserves Malick’s reputation as one of ­cinema’s most interesting ­filmmakers.

Rating: 7/10

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