Sunday, October 2, 2011

Malick's Yggdrasil

‘Skips channels, mainly, to Discovery, lots of pretty ads for I-don't-know-what, the episode itself is viscerally borderline interesting, having second thoughts about catching the next episode’ said a viewer. The fact that it was a silver screening must be noted. ‘Since the inspired Badlands – pardon the Days of Heaven I haven’t viewed – after the grand Thin Red Line and halfway brilliant New World, it seems the filmmaker has gone soft in the head. Tree of Life is pretentious bollocks.’

Maybe I was fortunate to have viewed it at the comfort of desktop. You’re in an auditorium to watch the film rolling uneventfully, not to watch the disappointed audience walking out when it’s barely ten minutes in. In an auditorium when you could gladly excuse the occasional breaking into laughter if that’s a reaction to a witty narrative, you might not want to excuse the incessant whisperings and what-the-fug-is-going-on’s. It’s best the audience walked out. Even though I do not embrace the aforesaid critique, the reference to testicles in particular, it must be said Tree of Life borders, sadly perhaps unconsciously, on the phallogocentric perspective.

To go from explicating movie-going to explicate Tree of Life, even though I do not mind embracing its concept (rather perceived theological/philosophical concept) of Universalism, I believe it is one of a kind beast that takes itself too seriously and since it is a hard nut to crack it cannot be satisfactorily explicated. The least that can be said about it is its aesthetics and by aesthetics I mean not the CGI but the cinematography that involves the story of the family (the neighborhood) and that is by all means unique. The CGI shots though by no means bad aren’t in the same vein distinct, and how well it segues with the “pivotal” human narrative and to what extent it proves effective remains questionable.

Pitt as father, besides McCracken as son, is well cast, when Chastain as mother albeit good in parts mostly is typecast, Penn as adult Jack is either miscast or underused or both. It’s not meant to be a feature of ensemble cast. The casting of big stars, Pitt and Penn here, is in order to have the selling point high and in that regard it may be a successful venture but as an artistic endeavor it’s rather mediocre.

Films mustn’t be overlong, not unnecessarily. Case in point is 2081. A film based on Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron, it’s built around a flawed premise. Though a satire it’s tonally grim and that makes the premise all the more flawed. But what’s done with 2081 makes it make at least remote sense. It is made skillfully as a short film that clocks in at 26 minutes, makes a point, and before you know down rolls the credits. For its runtime of 138 minutes, if not too short, had Tree of Life been given something of a similar treatment, say 80 minutes, it could’ve been effective, if not to make a point, if not to make definitive sense, to make more sense than the little sense it makes.



  1. Thank you, Arti. Generally, sadly, what we get is all gimmick and no meat. It's sadder when even the non-mainstream cinema resorts to promotional trickery with nothing else to back it up. What you've said is right to the bone.

  2. Excellent review! Substance should always be given higher priority than anything else and next aim should be to package and deliver it in the neatest and crispiest way possible, otherwise it loses its charm!


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