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Paul Jensen

THE TREE OF LIFE (2011) 5 star

Reportedly an autobiographical tale, this is cinema as touching and brave as your going to get out of Hollywood. It puts everything into perspective. As you leave the film experience, you feel awake and ready to embrace the world around you. The feeling and images stay with you just as powerful memories do. The film begs to be deciphered with each sequence bringing a plethora of hidden secrets that enrich the viewer with insight and beauty. Sorrow, envy, joy, love and bitterness are all shown with astonishingly genuine performances, while Malick follows them with a metaphorical representation in nature. After all, our complex emotions are only natural.

It truly is a love poem to Malick's mother. She permeates the film - notice how it begins with her. The enigmatic imagery expresses humanity in a way that we're not accustomed to in traditional narrative. A child swimming out of a door like a baby from a womb, a boy leaving a negligee by the river because of his shameful feelings; that same river where the awe-inspiring dinosaur shows both threat and mercy - a perfect summary of all the differences of the world, culturally and racially.

In the end, Sean Penn's character must let go of the memories to be able to fully live in the present. The candle signifying the anniversary of a sibling's suicide. It's a cathartic and exquisite finale to a film that can only be compared to 2001: A Space Odyssey. If that isn't enough, we get a truly transcendent sequence that boldly illustrates the creation of the universe. To call it a religious experience is almost an understatement. Apart from Kubrick, who else would dare to present such a mind-blowing cinematic experience? Terrence Malick has earned his place alongside the all-time great filmmakers. Tree of Life is one of the most personal, ambitious and uncompromising films we have ever seen. It begins and ends with God or you might say the beginning of all creation...and then there was light, cinema, a bridge from one world to another. In summary, this film is pure enlightenment.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Terrence Malick