When The Tree of Life (2011) won the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, the Palme d’Or/Golden Palm, I expected it to be something original and amazing. These expectations got even higher after I watched the Palme d’Or nominated Drive (2011) and loved it. (My review of Drive here)
I was really in for a surprise. The Tree of Life was nowhere near as good as I had expected.
At the very beginning of The Tree of Life I was completely caught. The first few scenes were amazing and everything seemed to indicate that this was going to be a great movie. Unfortunately this feeling of amazement didn’t last very long. To be specific, it lasted until the first scene with Sean Penn. Actually throughout the rest of the movie I felt that all the scenes with Sean Penn didn’t bring anything to the story, and just were confusing. Don’t get me wrong, his acting was great but I feel the same way about Sean Penn’s scenes and he does:
Sean Penn (source):
Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing there and what I was supposed to add in that context!
To be fair to Sean Penn his scenes were far from the only ones I felt didn’t fit in. Throughout the movie there were also a few cosmos sequences (one being very long and included dinosaurs), several abstract scenes (floating woman, chair moving on its own, etc.), and the weird ending, which I feel all should have been left out.
Overall The Tree of Life had a good main story which could have made for a great movie. I actually think just by editing the movie by cutting out the weird and abstract scenes, the movie could be greatly improved. I know many will say that without these scenes the movie would just be a conventional good drama. With them however, the movie is not even a decent movie, but just weird and artsy. It tries to teach me something, but as with most abstract art, I really have no fucking idea what.
So what began amazing, quickly turned weird, and ended even weirder. In between there was told a good story, which had been turned into an unsuccessful attempt at an epic piece of art. It all just seemed very unnecessary and done just to be unconventional. I can’t recommend the current version of The Tree of Life, but since the director has already been talking about a six-hour version I expect other versions will become available in the future. Wait and see if they perhaps are worth a damn.
- Halfdan Reschat
“I should think less like a human being that uses doors, and more like more a squirrel that has anger problems.”