Artistic films are a unique genre whereas it’s one of those genres that can’t really be judged by the standards of other films. Artistic films aren’t made to keep the masses entertained for large qualities of time with clichéd plots and characters. These films are out to try and express something – and film just happens to be the medium. The Tree of Life falls directly in the middle of this category and pretty much defines the genre.
It’s hard to describe what The Tree of Life is about. The film follows almost no conventional or unconventional plot devices whatsoever and is almost a series of loosely related images strung together by the same characters. The closest thing to a plot that could be pulled out of it is that Jack (Sean Penn, 21 Grams) is remembering his deceased brother by remembering his own uneventful life. He particularly remembers one summer when he and his brother were younger, but not the summer when he died. In fact, it’s not even the summer where anything really significant happened between the two brothers. A chunk of this movie is spent focusing on the tense relationship the kid has with his father (Brad Pitt, Inglorious Bastards).
Parts of the film take a real jump showing what can assumed to be the creation of the earth while some unseen narrator talks vaguely about God. The weirdest part is probably when it jumps ahead in time and shows some 10 minute clip that looks like a deleted scene from the movie Dinosaur. The pure shock and incongruence with the scene is almost like the film is trying to cleanse the audience’s palette before moving on.
Despite how strange the movie is, it’s still hard to qualify it as a bad movie. It’s like looking at an abstract piece of art, filled with colorful shapes and angles and saying that it’s a bad picture because it’s not actually of anything. That’s what this film feels like, some artist’s expression without conventional form or substance, just ideas splatted together on a canvas. The beauty of the scenes themselves adds to this. Each one is beautifully captured, as every scene is given what looks like an excruciating amount of work to get the lighting and composition just right. It’s a masterfully done effect that transcends just pointing a camera at something and shooting.
In the end the film is good, it’s just not recommended to someone who wants to see sexy explosions every five minutes or some epic love story. The Tree of Life is a film to go into ready to think and introspectively explore the meaning of life and through a beautifully done piece of art. Unless your date is into that, the best idea is probably to just go see Thor.
The Tree of Life is rated PG-13 for some language and intense emotions.