Where do I begin? The oft-praised Terrence Malick, writer and director of The Tree of Life, has finally introduced his much anticipated film to the world. It initially premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in France to what was described as 70% cheers and 30% boos. That being said, there's a huge backstory to The Tree of Life. Almost 13 months ago Malick was set to release the picture at last year's Cannes Festival, yet he pulled the movie from the competition because he felt it needed more editing. Inevitably, the year long delay left critics more eager than imaginable to view the film. Despite the fraction of displeased moviegoers, The Tree of Life still managed to win the Palme d'Or (the Festival's most prestigious award).
Let me now explain that Malick's The Tree of Life is nothing like anything most people have seen before. What can only be described as a hybrid of "experimental" filmmaking, Malick's bold tale of one man's search for "the meaning of life" contains very little dialogue. Most movies tell a story through conventional narrative, however experimental films tell a story through imagery. The best analogy I can make is a novel verses a poem. Most movies are like novels. As a reader or viewer we gain understanding of the characters and their situations through dialogue. On the contrary, The Tree of Life is a poem. We are forced to gain a deep understanding of the main characters through facial expressions and vivid imagery. Since the audience is forced to interpret the story on their own, this results in a vague, yet personal experience.
To put the film into perspective, The Tree of Life nears a runtime of two hours and 20 minutes. Despite being a somewhat lengthy movie, there's only around 30 minutes of actual dialogue between characters. What almost seems like an elaborate prayer at times, the film is very thought provoking and beautiful to say the least. Malick once again creates a movie for himself and not a general audience. He breaks the mold here and for that he should be greatly recognized.
On the flip side, this is not a typical film for a casual moviegoer. The Tree of life is anything but an easy watch. The movie's intentions aren't clear and its meaning is virtually unknown. In fact, The Tree of Life may be one of the most challenging films I've ever watched. It places sole responsibility on the audience to determine its significance. I will avoid giving any spoilers about the movie but tell you one thing. At the conclusion of the film I had my personal opinion of what transpired and I have not seen the same interpretation from any other critic to date. Perhaps that's what helps make the movie transcending. It's Malick's interpretation of a man's spiritual journey, and isn't that what spirituality really is? Faith without knowing. And for that Mr Malick, we salute you.