365 High-Def Days of Oscar: Day 114
Release Year: 2011
THE PLOT THUS FAR
The story centers around a family with three boys in the 1950s. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence.
WHAT WE THOUGHT
Any attempt to explain “The Tree of Life” would be futile. It is so open to interpretation and quite a personal, intimate journey for any viewer who will free themselves for the experience. What I can tell you is that much of the film is focused on a typical family living in small town rural Texas in the early 1950’s. Brad Pitt plays Mr. O’Brien, the stern disciplinarian father and husband to Jessica Chastain’s much softer Mrs. O’Brien.
Near the beginning of the film, we get Mrs. O’Brien as narrator explaining that when she was a child, the nuns informed that in life one must choose between Nature and Grace. Nature being the real time of real life, whereas Grace is the more spiritual approach. Clearly, Mr. O’Brien has chosen Nature, while his wife embodies Grace. Watching their three boys evolve in this household is quite a treat – and is done with so little dialogue, it’s almost shocking to the senses.
One of the many things that jumped out at me was the set and production design of Jack Fisk. Mr. Fisk is a frequent collaborator with Mr. Malick and is also the husband of Sissy Spacek, who starred in Malick’s first film Badlands. Unlike many films, I did not have the feeling I was watching a film about the 50’s. Instead, the look is directly in the 50’s … slamming screen doors, tree houses, and family supper time! But don’t think for a moment that this is a story about the O’Brien’s and their sons. This family is merely Malick’s vessel for showing the earthly connections between the universe and each of the particles within.
The much vaunted ‘history of the universe’ sequence is stunning and is like a poetic editing of all of the most stunning images from science documentaries. It adds even more gravitas to a film that is as philosophically weighty as it is visually impressive. Douglas Trumbull was a special effects consultant and many might immediately think of comparing this sequence with the ‘Stargate’ climax of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The film’s philosophical/metaphysical weight rests, to some large extent on its deeply ingrained spirituality. Of course, this aspect has been there from the beginning with Malick, but here it is much more up-front. The film charts the paths of a family of characters. In the mother’s opening line of dialogue she recounts how ‘The nuns told us that there are two ways through life, the way of Nature and the way of Grace.’ In the film, the characters show how much the difference between these two paths influences the personalities of the characters and the lives that they lead.
The Blu-Ray comes with a DVD and Digital Copy. The only special feature is a featurette documentary that allows contemporary directors to explain the impact of Malick upon their work. The A/V Quality is reference material with a 1080p transfer that stands heads and tails above any other drama released this year. The DTS-HD 5.1 master audio track is pretty strong, but the effects heavy history of the universe stuff is the only place it really shines. In the end, I’d recommend a purchase.
RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW!