Showing posts tagged tree of life

For anyone who has a hard time figuring out just what exactly the dinosaurs are doing in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life.

"So, when we were done with our 10-minute presentations and it was time for the panelists to ask questions amongst themselves before turning the Q&A over to the audience, you knowwhat I had to ask him, after the discussions we’ve had here: Since, as he acknowledged, the CGI dinosaurs are painstakingly created from 0s and 1s, what was the intent of the pivotal scene in which the one dinosaur stomped on, and then seemed to stroke, a smaller dino who was lying in a riverbed.

Turns out, Michael was in charge of that very sequence, and discussed it thoroughly, on many occasions, with Malick himself. The premise of the four-shot scene was to depict the birth of consciousness (what some have called the “birth of compassion”) — the first moment in which a living creature made a conscious decision to choose what Michael described as “right from wrong, good from evil.” Or, perhaps, a form of altruism over predatoryct

Here’s the relevant passage from a 2007 draft of Malick’s screenplay:

Reptiles emerge from the amphibians, and dinosaurs in turn from the reptiles. Among the dinosaurs we discover the first signs of maternal love, as the creatures learn to care for each other.

Is not love, too, a work of the creation? What should we have been without it? How had things been then?

Silent as a shadow, consciousness has slipped into the world.

Leaving aside the question of whether the science behind this depiction of dinosaur life is sound (or, at least, generally accepted), that is the intention of the scene. Michael said Malick uses CGI footage almost the way he uses photographic footage. He wants a LOT of it to choose from. They gave him about 50 versions of the scene altogether (out of maybe a hundred that they put together). Michael’s initial inclination was to assemble the shots the same way you would if you were shooting it with actors, with the pivotal moment focusing on a close-up of the actor’s face, but Malick did not want close-ups of the dinosaurs’ eyes — he wanted it done with the paw (OK, I called it a “paw,” but Michael corrected me: it’s a foot).

They went back and forth, back and forth, trying to find just the right gestures, and the right timings, for the shots and the movements — and Michael said he wanted the moment at the end when the larger creature pauses and looks back for a moment, just before running off. He was glad it made it into the picture.

Michael said he thought the moment was severely “overacted,” but it got the point across, and most viewers seem to understand Malick’s intent in the context of the film.

So, there you have it, from the horse’s mouth — er, the dinosaur’s director.”

Source: (Jim Emerson, “Tree of Life: The Missing Link Discovered”) 


Tree of Life, 2011 (dir. Terrence Malick)

Because I love this final image. It has no chance of winning, but go Tree of Life for best picture!


Tree of Life, 2011 (dir. Terrence Malick)

Because I love this final image. It has no chance of winning, but go Tree of Life for best picture!

(Reblogged from thefinalimage)

Top 20 Movies of 2011: Part 2

Check out 20 through 11 here.

For those that really care, at some point within the next week I’ll be listing all 365 movies I watched this year in order of preference. I’m just crazy like that, I guess. I also love lists.

Now, for the cream of the crop of 2011, the best year for movies in recent memory. 

10. Hugo
Martin Scorsese’s most personal film in years concerns two major factors in his personal salvation; family and cinema itself, and Hugo showcases how neither is mutually exclusive in magical detail and breathtaking 3D cinematography. 

9.Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Step into the dusty-aired world of this spy thriller for adults and prepare yourself to get lost in its labyrinthine character motivations, mysterious intrigue and shadowy side plots. Just as you wrap your head around it all, the movie suggests that the differences between spies, nations and ideology is incredibly thin and possibly non-existent.

8. Weekend
The years second best love story is a refreshing spin on a familiar story trope; two very different men fall for each other, but only have a limited time to enjoy their affair before one of them moves far away. Weekend sings not only for it’s incredibly honest and realistic characters, but for its illuminating subtext of the complicated reality of openly gay relationships in a hostile world.

7. Attack the Block
The summer bored me with its non-stop barrage of boring, unimaginative comic book yarns. Then Attack the Block showed up and blew them all away, with its witty, exciting and socially relevant take on inner-city crime, poverty, gentrification, class differences and social disparity, all wrapped up in the best sci-fi action movie of the year. And its protagonist, Moses, is the action hero of the year; a young man who selfishly uses his born leadership skills for ill use and grows to the point where he’s willing to sacrifice his life for his friends, for his home, for the block and for the nation that has neglected and forgotten about him.

6. Tomboy
Deceptively simple, Tomboy takes the complicated issues of gender identification, young love, and pre-adolescent social anxiety, creating a fluid, touching portrait of a young woman who grows to accept the way society sees her and how she views herself.

5. Take Shelter
Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain give terrific, electrifying performances as a husband and wife coming apart at the seams due to his growing psychological fear of an outside force tearing his family apart. Debates on whether or not Shannon’s character is “crazy” or “right” miss the point; he’s both. The tragedy is not that a force is coming to rip the family apart but that the force is his illness. The drama builds from his incredible struggle, desperately trying to keep his sickness at bay. Shannon walks a delicate tightrope, simultaneously terrifying and compassionate, and Chastain shows tremendous patience as his strong but patient wife. 

4. Poetry
A haunting parable of painful sacrifice and inconsiderate cruelty. A grandmother lovingly looking after her grandson yearns to create something beautiful while her spoiled ward takes advantage of her and everyone around him. Is he involved with the murder of a female class mate? Poetry is about how we empathize with the unknown and how beautiful and painful the creation process can be, including the creation of a completely new outlook on life.

3. The Future
People really can’t stand Miranda July. Maybe because she’s so refreshingly honest. Oh, I can see you rolling your eyes. “A talking cat narrator is her being honest?” Well, frankly, yes. The Future vividly lists July’s fears of what might come; an expressionistic, magical-realist detailing of her idiosyncratic neurosis, failings and faults. Will she be able to remain faithful, will she be able to care for a child, will she be able to stay relevant and try new things without fear? If the cat represents what people would criticize about July’s “twee’ aesthetic, how telling is it that in the end she lets the thing die alone? Is this a sign of bold reinvention or fear of being unable to nurture who she is and what she loves? July’s critics be damned; the Future boldly reveals that nobody is more critical of July than July herself. This is thoughtful, bold film making at its finest.

2. The Tree of Life
Terrence Malick’s most personal film is beautiful mixture of contradictions; it lets viewers spy on characters most intimate moments while holding us at a distance, it’s majestically spiritual but scientifically grounded, stunningly composed, like a rich work of art, but thoughtfully realistic. Mostly, though, it’s a story of a creator finding his place in the world by investigating what he knows about his reality, his past, his family, his history, the history of the world, the history of the universe, the future, the present, his dream of death, his imagination, pouring it all into a colorful, heartfelt, thoughtful celluloid celebration. If a movie can contain this much vitality, then who can argue life isn’t worth living to the fullest?

1. Certified Copy
Abbas Kiaostami directs a masterpiece of romance, relationships, language, communication and how we construct our realities out of seemingly nothing, knowing and not knowing all the while. A man and a woman meet to discuss art. He’s written a book about copies of artwork, and how good copies of real works of art shouldn’t have their value diminished (if they’re convincing enough, don’t they serve the same purpose)? She debates him playfully as they depart on what begins almost as an innocent first date. From there, they slip into the roles of a married couple so convincingly we begin to question how much they really know each other. Is this a legitimate relationship, or just a copy of one? In the end, it doesn’t really matter; they’ve lived decades of romance, love, painful struggles, insightful conversations, spirited debates and humbling observations all in the span of an hour and same change, and we are lucky to have been able to tag along. Stunningly acted, perfectly paced, cleverly constructed and elegantly directed, if this decade produces a better film, we will all be incredibly fortunate. It’s available to watch online at Netflix. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

lepoinconneurdeslilas said: I just wanted to say that I really liked "The Tree Of Life" . I believe it to be a film that requires MANY viewings. There were so many emotionally honest moments. My favorite of them being when young Jack admits to his dad "I am more like you than like her". The film is so ambitious one can't help but admire Malick for even dreaming it up, let alone realizing it. I haven't fully wrapped my head around the whole thing. I will be seeing it again next week. Hopefully then I will be able to articulate much more clearly my feelings about this films...
Also, I just read your account of watching it with that audience. How unfortunate. I was much luckier in that aspect .
Have a great weekend !!

I’ve been thinking about watching it a second time myself.  I actually think that all of Malick’s films require more then one viewing just because they’re typically pretty dense.  I know what you mean about emotionally honest moments; that’s what baffles me when people label it pretentious.  How can something so universally touching be called distant or aloof?  I’m glad you liked it and I’m glad your audience was much better then mine (yet another reason why I want to watch it again).  Thanks for always taking the time to leave great comments, it’s always appreciated.  Have a great weekend yourself!

The Modern Film Audience : (Watching The Tree of Life in a Movie Theater)

So obviously I love Terrence Malick, love Tree of Life and have been posting about it ever since I started this blog.  I apologize, I’m going to cool it down now I promise.  But I’ve been thinking about the reaction the movie had with the audience I saw it with and I just had to post some thoughts about the modern movie theater audience. 

My local Landmark got the exclusive rights to show Terrence Malick’s new film, and they seemed very pleased because of it.  One of the employees greeted the sold out theater (one of three prints playing in the building) and thanked them for coming, confessing they were proud that they were showing the film.  It was a nice gesture coming from the art house chain, even if a little unnecessary (it’s not like we had a choice of watching it anywhere else).  I settled up near the front row with my two favorite people in the world, my brother and my fiance.  I’d seen The New World years ago with my best friend at the time and it was such an overwhelming experience.  Watching the movie up front allowed me to slip right into the world of the film.  I felt transported when watching it, utterly wrapped up in the frame and it had felt like the full potential of a movies power.  It felt magical.  Nobody mocked the movie, nobody even walked out (although it’s possible some people did, since I was upfront) but I was really impressed with the audience.  This was at a huge movie chain after all (Loews!) and people seemed genuinely moved by the movie. When I saw The Thin Red Line, I was living in upstate New York, and although initial viewings didn’t win me over in a huge way, I liked the movie enough to revisit it and fall in love later.  The majority of the audience was puzzled however (understandably to a degree; I think many people were expecting another Saving Private Ryan) and there were many walk outs.  But the theater was consistently polite and silent as a mouse, allowing everyone else to enjoy the film and take in the sights.

That wasn’t the case with The Tree of Life.  You’d think a sold out art-house chain crowd in Cambridge Massachusetts would be a little more polite and sophisticated then a small little movieplex in Upstate New York, which is surrounded by farmland, Indian reservations and a Casino.  I was appalled by this audience, downright embarrassed for most of them, sorry for the rest (including myself and my companions).  The man behind me sighed audibly several times, but not in a way that would be appropriate.  He wanted the entire theater know that the film was making him sigh.  His wife asked superfluous questions out loud to nobody in particular.  “Is that a volcano?” she asked when the  film had shots of…well, a volcano.  “It’s got a snake head,” she noted later when there was a shot of a dinosaur (a snake head?  Really?  What are you, five years old?).   People laughed at terribly inappropriate times (children playing in the DDT spray?  Why is that funny?) and some guys started getting verbally impatient (mutterings like, “Oh, come on” were heard towards the end).  Finally, once the first credit popped up on the screen, several people booed, and then several more clapped in response to the booing.  A war of reactions, I suppose (unless people were clapping because people were booing, which I doubt). 

I never understand why people clap at the end of movies.  I guess it’s fine if someone involved with the production is in attendance and you want to thank them for their work, but otherwise clapping seems kind of ridiculous.  Who are you clapping for?  It’s a movie.  They can’t hear you.  The clapping always struck me as self congratulatory and I always got the distinct feeling that people were clapping for themselves.  But booing, really?  And talking like children throughout the movie?  What the hell gives?  As everyone left the theater, people immediately started pulling the movie apart.  One guy compared it to Inglorious Basterds of all things, and was overheard saying to his companion, “you sure didn’t hear Brad Pitt announcing this movie is a masterpiece in the final shot.”  No, you sure didn’t.

It’s a divisive movie, I get that.  It’s leisurely paced to a degree and unconventionally structured.  It’s not a typical movie with a typical plot and a typical point A to point B. Not everyone is going to love it or even like it and I totally respect that.  But that doesn’t excuse people from acting like idiots.  The one reaction I had at the end was quiet reflection; I was still processing what I’d just seen, still sorting out all the details, the shots, the big picture.  So many people had made up their mind at some point, so many seemed to give up on thinking about it, as if the very idea of being forced to think about a movie confronted something in them so terrible that they needed to overcompensate with their anger at being asked to do so, and boy did they let everyone know.  Even for people who liked it to immediately pick it apart and discus the details seemed odd.  Give it a minute, people.  There’s nothing that says you need to discuss it right away.  There’s nothing that says you need to fill the awkward silence that comes after taking in a movie with your inane rambling.  And if the movie really fills you with that much hatred that you’d think about booing (check out this idiotic example as proof that the movie upsets people to such an unhealthy level) then perhaps you should consider just why exactly the movie left you with such a strong reaction.  If a movie upsets you that much, it has to be worth something, right?  If it gets that amount of anger out of you, then there has to be something there?  Right?  Unless you’re just a obnoxious little snot who boos at movies just to make the whole experience about yourself.  In which case, go ahead and fuck off and do your movie watching at home.

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Ottorino Respighi - Antiche danze ed arie per liuto (Ancient Airs and Dances), Suite No. 3, P. 172: III. Siciliana - Andantino
Performed by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland conducted by Rico Saccani

[Music of The Tree of Life]

(Reblogged from solidair)

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The Tree of Life (2011)

Mother, brother, it was they that lead me to your door.

Early in Terrence Malick’s magnum opus, a mother ( Jessica Chastain)  receives a telegram containing news that one of her three sons is dead.  It’s a jarring sequence because we don’t know which son died, or how he died (indeed, neither question ever gets officially answered in the film, although there are visual clues that allow us to guess his identity) .  In fact, at this point, we don’t really know anyone in the movie and have a hard time connecting with her grief as a character, forcing us to consider our own lives and our own moments of grief and despair.  Malick uses voiceover like a paintbrush and like many of his films, Tree of Life contains plenty of examples of naive whispered truths and stabs at philosophical platitudes that some viewers often mistake for attempts at depth.  The feeling Malick’s movies typically leave you with is one that is deeper than words and therefore harder to express using them, so it’s a given that his characters thoughts don’t always align with the magisterial images Malick chooses to combine them with.  In one later scene, the mother is working at a jigsaw puzzle, which seems like a fitting example of Malick’s type of film-making and Tree of Life especially.  He gives you many little pieces, but allows you to put them together to get the big picture.  He never draws the connections for you and some aspects are left intentionally vague.  Obviously this movie has the feeling of autobiography (minus the dinosaurs), but the puzzle picture makes a little more sense when we apply what we know about Malick already (which is difficult to do given that he’s notoriously private).  What we do know is that he grew up in Waco, Texas.  He studied philosophy at Harvard and taught the subject for many years at MIT, and one of his three brothers committed suicide when he was nineteen years old while studying music abroad.  It’s easy to assume that the telegram the mother receives is meant to be pulled from Malick’s memory, as is much of the film.  But the film never states specifically how the brother died and I’m guessing many would assume that it was in some kind of war.  After we watch the mother taking in her grief in shots that include a funeral, tear-strewn hugs and empty-eyed walks down deserted suburban streets, her husband (Brad Pitt) pries her from a relatives arms and tells everyone; his wife, the woman comforting her, himself, that they’ll be okay.  And not long after, one of the brothers (my guess the oldest one, Jack, (played by Hunter McCracken as a child and Sean Penn as an adult) whispers the voiceover I quoted above.  We can guess that the brother he’s referencing in this line is the one who later kills himself, the one he’s been vaguely jealous of since his birth, mostly for how close he always was to his mother and the philosophy she represents (grace).  But since Jack seems more like his father (against his wishes, in some respects) why has his brother and mother brought him to some kind of door?  And whose door is he even referring to?  What’s the “your” of this question?

When we first see Penn, he’s sitting up in bed, living in a very modern looking apartment, white and sterile.  It appears as if he’s just woken up from a troubling dream and he sits with his back to the woman he shares the space with.  He later gets up and lights a blue candle and she adds a bit of decorative tree leaves to their sparse décor.  Malick leaves everything open to interpretation, and I suppose it’s possible that Jack is just moody and out of sorts because he’s that kind of man.  But I got the distinct feeling that he’s just been informed of some rather bad news.  What else would allow him to indulge in fleeting gestures (like the candle, the plant life decoration she adds, the phone call he makes to his father at the office) that act as small, fleeting connections with his memories growing up in Waco?  Could the reason he specifically calls out his mother and brother in that voice over be because they have both died, that he’s now just been given news of her death (which naturally allows him to think of his brother) and that through their deaths he has learned to deal with his own and put his own life into perspective?  After all, it’s not death that seems to truly trouble Jack.  As mentioned above, Malick’s philosophy is that there are two ways to move through life; the path of nature and the path of grace.  Jack’s mother is quiet, carefree, fun loving and ethereal.  In one memorable surreal shot, she’s seen spinning through the air in front of a tree in Jack’s front yard after telling her sons a story about how she once flew in a biplane.  She spins one of her infant sons around in her arms on the front yard, and then points to the sky.  “That’s where god lives,” she tells the boy, and it’s that kind of loving, nurturing philosophy she attempts to give them through their entire upbringing.  Jack is attracted to her philosophy (and in an oedipal way, he’s attracted to her sexually as well) but his budding curiosity leads him to choose the way of nature, or as Malick puts it, he does things simply because he’s bored and wants to be satisfied.  Like his father, nothing is ever enough for Jack and it’s fitting that he ends up working a similar type of profession, surrounded by machines and steel, even if his office building is a thousand years away from the type of work Pitt can be seen doing (which not surprisingly is left somewhat vague).  Malick films the modern scenes franticly, with fishbowl lens close-ups on office phones and blueprints, and we can guess that Jack is an architect and that he helps construct the new natural beauty of the world.  In a lengthy, absolutely stunning early sequence, the film shows us how planet earth itself came to be and how life came to be on it.  Then, through most of the films middle section, we get glimpses of memory from Jack’s family.  This section rang so true, so honestly, so purely, because when considering your own early childhood, you only really remember fragments and from those puzzle pieces you assemble your own identity.  What’s truly amazing about this section of the film is that it feels incredibly personal, sometimes even invasive, which is truly remarkable for someone as private as Malick.  But it’s also stunningly universal, and therefore in many ways some of the most accessible film-making he’s done to date.  I don’t care what kind of childhood you had, there will be things that you’ll be able to connect to as a viewer, watching these sons grow up. 

In the final section of the film, Penn wanders through a deserted, barren apocalyptic wasteland, populated by many of the characters in the film, including himself at a younger age, and his brother as a young child; the same brother he once shot in the finger with his BB gun to see what would happen, the same brother who will later (or, already has) killed himself.  Many people seem disappointed with this section of the film because they think it represents Penn’s death and is painted in rather lackluster terms, especially compared to the creation myth-opening.    If the final after-life images don’t seem to wield the same power as the rest of the film, it’s because the afterlife is thoroughly unknown and Malick dare not try to answer what comes after life.  This is Jack’s imagination, not Malick’s.  This is his vision to deal with his place in the world.  Besides, it’s not as if Penn is literally dying, and it’s not as if we’re literally watching his death, not even in metaphorical terms.  The very last shots feature him breaking out of some kind of trance, touching a tree outside of the skyscraper he works in.  I think those last shots are intentionally last.  Jack is an architect and he has spent his life building things.  It’s important to note that his vision contains no man made structures at all.  This is how the character reconnects with his family, both the living and the dead.  This is how the character deals with the guilt over the loss of his brother, over (possibly) the loss of his mother, over the loss of his innocence and the denial of his mother’s graceful philosophy.  The door he comes to by the end of the film is forgiveness and reconciliation, and through these thoughts he comes to his own kind of acceptance and grace.  It takes his mother and brother’s death to help him understand it and reach it.  Yes, Jack has turned out much like his father, a man that he despised growing up for being tough and brutally strict for many years.  But the tree of life in question isn’t about living and dying, it’s about how every moment of life is another moment that permanently goes away.  Those early memories are still with Jack, just like the early moments of all creation are still with our planet in some small way, but they’re distant memories and one day they will no longer case to be, such as it is with all things.  The final shot is a large city bridge (perhaps one Jack has helped design?) connecting traffic to one part of a city to the other.  It’s the first time one of Malick’s movies have ended with a shot of a man made structure (his last two features ended with shots devoid of people all together, focusing only on nature).  This has to be intentional.  Despite the absence of all natural grace, the image still has tremendous power and beauty and leaves us with the feeling that Jack’s vision of the afterlife has allowed him to see that his parents philosophy aren’t warring within him all the time (as he suggests via voiceover at one point in the film) but that if he forgives himself, if he forgives his father and understands his strict but loving lessons, if he accepts the nature of life and includes death, both can coexist peacefully within. The door that Jack has been led to is his own acceptance —- the acceptance of his own grace through the choices he’s made.  The bridge he takes to the afterlife might be one of his own design, for memories are like long, lost, loved relatives; important in making us who we are, but lost forever through times brutal march.  

Photo courtesy of

Boston’s Stupid Film Programming

As of tomorrow, May 27th:

The AMC Loews Boston Common 19:

Three prints of The Hangover II.

Three prints of Kung-Fu Panda II.

Four prints of Pirates of the Caribbean : On Stranger Tides

Two prints of Thor and Bridesmaids.

The Regal Fenway Stadium 13:

Four prints of the Hangover II

Two prints of Kung-Fu Panda II

Three prints of Pirates of the Caribbean : On Stranger Tides

Two prints of Thor

The Landmark Kendall Square:

Three prints of Midnight in Paris

Boston’s total number of Tree of Life prints?  Zero. 

But at least everyone will have plenty of opportunities to see boring retreads of crap that wasn’t very good in the first place.  And I guarantee the per screen average of the movie that just won the palme d’or would be packing seats into whoever was smart enough to snatch it up.  I mostly blame AMC for lacking the foresight in counter-programming some of their numerous smaller theaters with artier, more independent fare.  That would be a smart thing to do in a town full of students and academics.  But nope, everywhere you go, Pirates and Pandas and Hangovers.  Oh, sigh. 

re: Tree Of Life

etsukosasori replied to your quote: A tree grows in prehistoric times, in the yard of…

When I reed this review, I’m feeling SO SAD that the movie didn’t convinced me… And yet I wanted to loved it. But even if I was moved by some part of the film, there something that disturbed me… Anyway can’t wait to read your point of view !

I’m really jealous that you’ve seen it already!  I think Malick is a pretty divisive film maker, and each one of his movies is challenging in their own right.  I can totally understand how and why this didn’t/couldn’t speak to you…I’m just really hoping it speaks to me.  I’ve had varying degress of success myself when watching his films.  The first time I saw The Thin Red Line, for example, didn’t go well for me at all.  I was so disappointed because it was the first movie he’d made in over twenty years and it just felt like a dud.  But subsequent viewings later, I love it almost as much as the rest of his work. 

I understand some of the more spiritual aspects of the movie might turn people off, and who knows, it might turn me off as well.  I’m not really a spiritual person, but I respect other people’s sense of faith, especially when they express it as honestly and openly as Malick tends to do.  We’ll see this weekend!  I can’t wait to see it.  Writing about it will probably prove to be a much bigger challenge. 

A tree grows in prehistoric times, in the yard of Jack’s childhood past, in between the towering steel offices of his future (an image that, for me, evoked the progress of the new World Trade Center complex), even in the afterlife where everyone who ever touched his life, however significantly, gathers together for whatever stage comes next in our spiritual evolution. We never know the older Jack in the present in any sort of concrete sense, but as he’s led toward a desert purgatory and toward the sea by his younger self, on a journey his father, his mother, and at least one brother before him once followed, we understand he chose the path of his father, the same one that informed his anger long ago to tie a frog to a rocket and shoot it into the sky, and to the great disappointment of his mother. Throughout these scenes, you gather Malick is confessing to making movies so he won’t become the man who shoots a dog in Badlands, and you hope, pray even, that Jack has finally found the peace his mother’s path might have once afforded.
From Ed Gonzalez’s ( Tree of Life review.  I’m not sure I’ve read another review that connects Tree of Life so perfectly (and personally) to Malick’s filmography.  A typically brilliant review from Gonzalez, this has me even more excited for the movie than before.