The Tree of Life is a film in a category all by itself, or at least almost all by itself. The only movie that comes to mind as a comparison to Tree of Life is 2001 : A Space Odyssey. This movie is more of an experience than a movie. For the first few minutes of this film, there is a very abstract feel and not much dialogue. I kept wondering if only the first 10 minutes would bethis way like a prologue, or if the entire film would continue in this style. I was hoping that the entire movie follow in this vein and for the most part I got my wish. This is an abstract and atmospheric emotional and visual experience.
This much I can tell you. Brad Pitt plays Mr. O’Brien, husband and father of three raising a family in the 1950’s midwest. He has a uneven relationship with his sons, especially his oldest, Jack. The movie has parallel scenes set in the 90s 2000s? of Sean Penn as the grown up Jack dealing with the consequences and his perception of the world. The movie also touches on the history of the universe and puts life in a vase perspective. The first line of the movie questions a life of nature or of grace, introducing the debate between nature and religion.
There are plenty of scenes in theis film that invite repeat viewing to take them in better as the movie is short on explanation and wants you to take from it what you get out of it. I will have to go see this movie again. I could see at the end of the movie that some of the audience were not very happy with the film’s abstract and impressionist nature and were maybe looking for something more concrete. I understand where they are coming from, but seriously, how often do you get to see am movie like this one? It is a unique experience. With most other movies being traditional storytelling, this is a breath of fresh air and should be appreciated for it’s uniqueness.
From a photographer’s point of view, this movie has absolutely breathtaking visuals, wide angle tracking shots, amazing lighting, and creative special effects that do not use CGI. I never had a chance to see 2001 in the theater but after seeing this film, I think I have some idea of how that must have felt. Anyone who is looking for a different kind of experience at the movies needs to check this movie out. If you are in the mood for traditional fare, this movie is not for you.
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