The Tree of Life
Directed by Terrence Malick
Starring Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Fiona Shaw (in the 1950s) Sean Penn and Joanna Going (in present day)
Synopsis (don't read if you don't wanna know the very basic template) Malick has described the film as a "mystical epic". There's rumored to be a section of the film about prehistoric Earth. But most of what we know is that it's a story in two main parts. First, a story about the eldest boy in a young family in the 1950s (Brad Pitt is the father) and the loss of innocence. The second part is about the boy as a disillusioned adult man (Sean Penn)
Brought to you Apparition. That's Bob Berney's new distribution company that is obviously thinking Quality + Oscar. Last year they brought us Bright Star and The Young Victoria and this year the fine Aussie noir The Square and the rock bio The Runaways.
Expected Release Date god only knows. It's Malick.
As much as I am eager to see this, I can wait until Malick is finished. I feel we could have avoided all that New World confusion if awards season hadn't rushed that film into strangely blink-and-miss multiple versions.
Robert: At this point I think I'd just be happy if The Tree of Life is finished in my lifetime. I don't begrudge Malick his slow work style (after all it results in masterpieces) but my anticipation is turning into impatience. I blame the sexy allure of the unknown. Think about it. Malick's last movie was based on a historical story we were all familiar with. The one before that was based (albeit loosely) on a book. But this is the first time in over thirty years we've really had no idea what he's cooking up.
I can't imagine the distribution will be as botched as it was with The New World. This has to be poised as the big Oscar contender of the year. I can even recall reading that Malick was prepared to get less elusive and campaign (though that has yet to be seen).
Is it me or are there an unusual number of mysterious movies coming out this year?
Nathaniel: It's not just you. But none are as mysterious as this. Even when Malick's movies are based on true familiar stories they feel somewhat ethereal.That's the wrong word. Otherworldly. Otherwordly it is. New Worlds. I assume Malick has to be the alpha and omega of why we're all interested in this one. So anyone care to share when they first fell for Malick's work and why?
Jose: I was twelve when I saw The Thin Red Line, it was my first Malick and I couldn't make sense of a single thing other than the fact that it was so green. That's all I remember from it now actually: leaves and soldiers.
<-- Jim Caviezel in The Thin Red Line (1998)
I figured it all out almost a decade later when I took on the task of watching all of Malick's films (it's not that big a filmography I know) and saw how nature was such a predominant part of his work. I think I fell in love with it when I saw the performances he got out of Sam Shepard in Days of Heaven and especially Q'Orianka Kilcher in The New World. The way their characters are at complete balance between the natural and the ethereal is breathtaking.
Craig: I really like that I don't know a great deal about this one, and indeed many of the more attention-worthy films coming out later in the year. But this adds to that Malick allure, as you say Robert. There were two recent films - one late last year (Where the Wild Things Are); one earlier this year (Shutter island) - where I successfully managed to avoid anything and everything said about them. I wanted to keep it all a surprise. And it worked well; I enjoyed both completely spoiler-free.There have been certain films in the past where I'll read as much as possible, and the hype I build for myself for them doesn't always pan out. I don't think we'll get a great amount of pre-release information on Tree of Life either. And I've found this works particularly well with Malick's stuff. Because he doesn't make too many films in any given decade, this is all kind of in keeping with his secrecy and mystique. This basic plot premise (which I did read - I slap my own wrists!) does sound really allusive and more than a bit oblique, which leads me to think that his themes will be broad as hell and all-encompassing. As he gets older is he grasping for those ever more grand subject matters?
The first Malick film I saw was his second (or third if you count the short Lanton Mills): Days of Heaven. I liked the look and feel, and the music struck me as nice, but I was really too young to actually grasp what it was really all about. Then I saw Badlands (ace), and his others over time, and now I've since re-watched Heaven again (several times now). Although I like to think I have a better grasp of its mood, climate and sense of evaporating time (and the music is still next to godliness), I still, gladly, can't fully comprehend why it's so evocative. It's probably my favourite of his still. Richard Gere hasn't been better; Brooke Adams and Linda Manz were just so perfectly cast; and although it's been commented on to the nth degree - and is a rather shopworn phrase now - but all that 'magic hour' photography is just as fresh and spellbinding today - it's just so easy on the eye!
Days of Heaven (1978)
Days of Heaven (1978)
Days of Heaven feels kinda unfinished, unresolved in a way, too. One of the main things I love about it is that, even though the film technically ends, it's easy to believe that the story continues and resonates beyond that point. So I guess it's a 'first love' situation with Days. I love me some Malick - bring on the Tree!
JA: I can't remember if it was Badlands or Days of Heaven that caused me to fall for Malick, but getting to see Badlands on a big screen a couple years ago cemented my impression that when it comes to Malick, the bigger the better. Somehow I missed The New World in theaters - I don't know how that happened, but they did mess up that movie's release something bad - but seeing Badlands splashed across a giant screen made me realize what I've been missing watching them on little TV boxes.
<--- Sissy Spacek in Badlands (1973)
So, not knowing much about the plot, that alone is what's got me enthusiastic here - the chance to spy his visuals once again in epic scope. And that there might be an IMAX companion-piece is only further blowing my mind. I fully intend to die in the theater from too much damn beauty, and I can't imagine a better way to go.
Nathaniel: I hope you live but I heartily second the sentiment.
And on that breathtaking note, readers, we conclude this year's We Can't Wait: Summer and Beyond series. Hope you enjoyed. Tell us about your first Malick experience. If you haven't had one, get to it soon before this movie appears.
"We Can't Wait: Summer and Beyond" complete series: The "orphan" picks Nathaniel (Burlesque), JA (Love and Other Drugs), Jose (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger), Craig (What's Wrong With Virginia?), Robert (True Grit) and Dave (Brighton Rock); Team Film Experience Countdown #12 It's Kind of a Funny Story, #11 Sex & the City 2, #10 Scott Pilgrim vs the World, #9 Somewhere, #8 The Kids Are All Right, #7 The Illusionist, #6 Toy Story 3, #5 Inception, #4 Rabbit Hole, #3 Never Let Me Go, #2 Black Swan and #1 The Tree of Life.