That there is the pre-release thread.
It's been on general release over here for the majority of the week so I assume it's opening up all over the place. To preface this is the year that I really got into Malick. Since January I've seen Badlands, Days of Heaven, A New World and The Thin Red Line and adored them all (The Thin Red Line, less that the others) largely because the trailer for The Tree of Life excited me so.
Usually I'm quite happy to waffle on about a movie and drop stupid analysis like no ones business, but this film just genuinely floored me. I'm not a man of faith, at all, but there's something about this film which is just amazingly spiritual. It reminds me a lot of The Last Temptation of Christ in how it serves as both an analysis of religion but also as a spiritual experience all of its own. I love the central conceit of God filtered through the eyes of a child and represented by the two parents. There's something about the continual soul searching in the film which is deeply affecting.
It's also an amazing use of subjective story telling, with the majority of the story told from the perception of Jack as a youngster. This subjective approach is fantastic and it helps to make the core conflict of the film really resonate. A lot of Malick's films tend to focus on the nature of man and man's place in nature. This film muses on this subject by having mother and father represent different ideologies. The father is a man bound by social constructs and tormented by his own failures, a person shaped by his nature. The mother describes her nature as being of the way of grace and she exists in the world almost free of those social constraints. Her world is blinkered, inward, and unsullied by external factors whilst the father is paralysed by the reaction of others. The children naturally side with the mother and as such we're presented with a very skewed vision of the father and the mother, with the mother being an almost divine force whilst the father is a constant reminder of the everyday.
The film sees to have the view that both ethoses are flawed, that both need to be in place to counteract each other. Whilst the father is portrayed as brutish and deeply resentful, the film shows that the mother isn't a parental figure with control over her children when the father isn't there. He's essentially a neccesary evil due to the mothers ideology, however because we're getting the film from the persepective of a child he's rendered almost monstrous and the mother almost angelic.
My only real complaint about the film are two specific moments where I think the film loses sight of itself. The first is the short section featuring dinosaurs. It's part of a grand sequence showing the formation of the world and most of it is framed as a 'call and response' to the narration, the dinosaur section however doesn't have any narration to frame it and as such it feels kind of untethered from the rest of the film. It's also kind of odd because the dinosaurs are literally in two sequences and one of them seems to be there purely to reinforce the Nature vs. Grace ideology. I also think the film perhaps ends a few too many times, with the metaphysics of the finale getting a tad too much. Conceptually they're fine, but it's just exhausting having these natural end points and then there being yet more of the film.
Malick's eye is amazing, his framing and composition and the way he delivers information visually are just astounding. There are a few 'Malick Moments' which feel like broad parodies of a Malick movie, constant cutaways to waterfalls and leaves which are effective 95% of the time but across a little schticky that other 5%. The score is amazing though, the use of Smetana's Ma Vlast is amazing and Deplat's score is gorgeous. Really can't wait to get a copy of it.
Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain are great for different reasons. Pitt manages to find a lot of humanity in a character who is rendered monstrous by the subjective point of view, whilst Chastain manages to make the dialogue absolutely sing. A don't think many other actors could make Malick's dialogue work nearly as well as Chastian does.
The film does seem to be divisive though. I caught the film at a midday showing at my local arthouse cinema and there were about six or seven walkouts in the first half hour.