tree of life. or whatever it is.
disclaimer: i am no intellectual. maybe i am a pseudo-intellectual. but if intellectualism refers to the process of inculcating, assimilating, and adhering to reason, rationality and progressive ideas including the will to tread the unexplored path in order to create something – then, i may consider myself to be a very tiny part of that process. whatever you may call it.
‘tree of life’ is a heavy title. and it is such a pleasure to watch Terrence Malick doing justice to it.
from the very first frame, where he quotes from the book of job, “where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth … when the morning stars sang together?” – a familiar realization dawned upon me. this film is not for everyone. not everybody could fathom the depth of those words hurled at job; given his situation & the context those words are set in. the book of job remains a personal favourite. and Malick lays the foundation for the complex theme he is about to tackle. maybe never attempted in the history of cinema. clearly a first. and what a take!
in many ways ‘tree of life’ is visual poetry; meditation; a philosophical drama; rumination over existentialism; cosmic connections and indifferences; personal loss; theological discourse; intelligent design; fragmented memories; the story of redemption; that metaphysical realm of silence… i could go on and on and on.
i strongly connected with the way dialogues are presented as thoughts, a restless camera that looks at its environment just like the way we see things with our eyes. Malick constantly fills us with wonder (a really difficult task in today’s times where techonology-driven narratives have set the benchmark) going back to billions of years on earth and showcases stunning visuals of life in all its fullness and glory. his mystic sense of handling both the majestic and minutae is spellbinding. some may that these kind of films demands a lot from the viewer for its not easy to grasp the depth, width and the relevance of a tale like this. especially when we are so used to putting on our 3D glasses with a box full of popcorn. in many ways Malick also challenges us to re-examine our mundane existence where we are slaves of time. the ticking of a clock. measuring out the stream of life in constant units. according to Malick, time itself is a servant of bigger things within the landscape of chaos, blackness, emptiness and silence. he also plays with our cognitive quirks – ‘having and knowing’; ‘causation and force’; ‘events, things and location’.
at one point, i was almost convinced that i should definitely father a few babies. as bizarre as it may seem. no cinema has been able to strike a chord with me at such an unconscious level. oh how i loved the parental figures played with such effervescence and balance by Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain. at one point in time, i could almost recollect the smell of my dad’s sweat and the way my mom smelt when i hugged her during childhood. “There are two ways through life: the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow…” such lines sum up what we seek in life. Sean Penn. and his childhood. brilliantly captured. every man carries his first guilt with him. the struggle between so called ‘good’ and ‘evil’. the alpha male – admission and dismissal. exposure to imbalances. death. loss.
‘tree of life’ also made me realize that the ghosts of writers and thinkers such as chesterton, augustine, paul davies, fritjof capra still reek in the deep recesses of my mind.
thank you Terence Malick. for making me think. for making me uncomfortable. for making me believe in cinematic experiences.