Cannes 2011: Group Discussion About Terrence Malick's 'Tree of Life'
by Alex Billington
May 16, 2011
It has finally arrived. After years of waiting, Terrence Malick's highly anticipated new film The Tree of Life officially premiered today at the Cannes Film Festival, to quite a bit of acclaim and discussion. Most have probably already heard that the film is considerably abstract and very cosmic, focusing not only on a family in Texas in the 50s, but also showing the creation of the universe and life as we know on it Earth. It's such an interpretive film, that I felt I really needed to watch it a second time before writing a formal review, so instead I decided to have a quick discussion about the film with a few friends, shot on location in Cannes.
I'll write out a few of my actual thoughts beneath the video as well. I caught up with my friend Raffi from TheFilmStage.com and Yama from IONCinema.com and asked them to join me out near the ocean to talk about The Tree of Life, our thoughts on it, and what it means. As with any Malick film, it's open to interpretation in so many ways and will connect with each person individually in different ways. The video below is mostly spoiler free and we chat about some of the ideas and the story presented in the film how it all ties together, and what it all means. It's our best attempt at talking about this immediately after seeing it.
I did wake up very early on Monday morning to catch the very first 8:30AM showing of The Tree of Life. It's over two hours long and juxtaposes a cosmic look at the creation of the universe and Earth with a more focused story of a small family in Texas in the 1950s. Brad Pitt plays the father of the family, Jessica Chastain the mother, and they have three sons. The film mostly focuses on the eldest son and we watch as he grows from birth to about 12 years of age and how everything shapes him and his life. Tree of Life is unquestionably beautiful to watch and the score is exhilarting. It's a film I will find myself re-watching simply for the experiential nature of it; I could watch the cosmic sequence over and over it was so beautiful.
Beyond that, I truly believe this film needs two or three viewings before I'm capable of actually delving into a full interpretation, and that's completely expect when it comes to Terrence Malick. Most have also probably heard there was a small amount of booing in the theater at the end, but that was a specific group of people, everyone else I've spoken with has been attempting to process the film further before formulating their complete opinions, but reviews have been all over the board anyway. That said, if you go see this film once it's released, don't judge it immediately, give it time to soak in and take the opportunity to discuss it.