The utterly bewildering experience of watching The Tree of Life is one which defies everyday critical dissection. Like starting into James’ The Jolly Corner, hearing Grieg’s The Last Spring for the first time, or beholding the hellish casting of the bell in Tarkovsky’sAndrei Rublyov, one is left bereft at the gulf of the mystical, before something which is distinctly more than the sum of its parts, whose means are beyond comprehension but fundamentally of affect. Malick’s latest film is a triumph: the most ambitious American film (along with Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York) in living memory, carving a subjective vision of childhood, of life as we know it, as universal truth, or somethingtowards truth. There is nothing quite like it and there almost certainly never will be again. Much has been made of the film’s “Christianity”, with Malick’s contemplative religiousness echoing throughout the film’s more universal spirituality as a magnetic field of sorts, oscillating between faith and despair and, mostly, bewilderment. It is hard to imagine any other director attempting anything on a similar scale, or swooping towards the mystical with the same poise, as Malick. Genius.
Theatrical release date:
Directed by Terrence Malick
Cast Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain
Runtime: 139 min