26 May 2011 | auberus
Such a promising plot and such a disappointment.
Tree of Life is an interesting experiment, some kind of a visual blend. It is a period film centered around a Family in the 1950s. The film depict a crucial time in Life of a boy (the eldest son), who witnesses the loss of innocence and the lack of control over his deepest feelings triggered it seems by the arrival of his new born brother.
But Tree of Life is also a variation over the meaning of Life and Death alternating between a cosmic vision of Life and a subjective and often poetic vision of childhood as an aphorism for Grace, Nature and Love.
The films then introduces the unbearable Death, the one that can't be explain the one that shakes the very balance of a Family, the Death of a son of a brother as we learn that the second born died suddenly at the age of 19 (probably at War).
However the genuine narration and enigmatic if not poetic vision of the cosmos mixed with state of the heart but virtual shots depicting how Life started (the way of Nature) makes for a slide-show of boredom. And as we move along the story of this family seems more and more like a "collage" exercise, some kind of a pretext to voice over cosmic images philosophical questions from our main tree protagonists (The Mother, the elder son and the Father). The result is messy and at times superficial.
In this blend of images and emotions actors aren't use to deliver an acting performance but more so to make the philosophical questioning move along. The problem is the questioning stagnates and closure never really gets through. Even if we understand that the border between Life and Death is as thin as a bank of sand between two seas on which we may meet sometimes, the audience is left with the same Belief before entering the Theater. Eventually you remain the same before and after the movie. You don't feel any more comfort, tranquility, clarity or even sadness. You've just seen beautiful shots.
Soaked with Christian Philosophy Tree of Life delivers as a very well shot film but never provides the audience with a sense of progression and closure. The story of this Family never really takes off nor does the Philosophic Questioning gets to an end.
At posteriori Tree of Life seems like an audacious idea on paper and lays out good material to explore. However the film ends up resembling a nice slide-show with little to no story, which makes me wander if cinema was the best medium for this cosmic Tale.