Why The Tree of Life is a film but should have been a movie

maureen

The Tree of Life is a film, not a movie. Films make you work harder than movies. Some movies are also films. If it wins a Best Picture Oscar it’s usually a hybrid. Movies that aren’t films hardly ever win. Films win Oscars but not usually for Best Picture.

If the audience rating is high but critics hated it, it’s definitely a movie. If the critic rating is higher than the audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes it might be a film.

If it’s a trivia question in a bar, it’s probably a movie. If it’s a trivia question on Jeopardy it might be a film.

If the wordless parts are car chases it’s a movie. If the wordless parts are ethereal looking women looking at trees, it might be a film.

If things blow up, it’s a movie. If cosmos blow up, it might be a film.

If it provides comic relief even if it’s a drama, it’s a movie. If it has absolutely no sense of humor it might be a film.

If the action is linear and the flashbacks are clearly marked, it’s a movie. If you have to figure out whether it’s real or not, it might be a film.

If the backstory and flashbacks support the plot it’s a movie. If the backstory and flashbacks are the plot, it might be a film.

If you have to figure out the theme from the story, it’s a movie. If you have to figure out the story from the theme which is also the tagline, it might be a film.

If the narration provides practical wisdom and explains things that would have made it longer, it’s a movie. If the introspective narration and wordless montages provide cosmic insight and make the movie longer, it might be a film.

I think I would have liked The Tree of Life better as a movie or a hybrid. Here are two people who represent the two ways to go through life. The wife represents the way of grace while the husband represents the way of nature. The wife and mother responds to life as a joy and a wonder, while the husband and father shoulders life as a burden and responsibility. Both indicate belief that these are the responses expected by God.

When faced with tragedy they both ask the same questions, the questions Job asks, “Why did this grief come to me? I’ve done all that God asked of me. Could I have prevented it by behaving differently?”

As he looks back on his life their son Jack realizes that he’s felt trapped in trying to live his father’s way, when his mother’s way offers him greater peace and satisfaction. That would make a great movie.

Instead, for me, each scene in The Tree of Life was presented as so profound, packed with meaning, and deliberately crafted that it became overwhelming and impossible to process. It is an overlong, tedious, but artistically beautiful film.

Well, artistically beautiful except for that whole ancient earth part with those CGI dinosaurs. I kept looking for Dennis Nedry from Jurrasic Park to come running out into the river pursued by the apes from 2001: A Space Odyssey.


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