How can you explain a film that tells most of its story using visuals? Films are first and foremost a visual format. Some films have tested the waters of visual story telling: Enter the Void
and 2001: A Space Odyssey
are perfect examples of that.
Visual poetry is something that can easily be seen as pretentious, or even lazy, but when done right, it can hit you hard like a baseball being thrown at your face.
Cinéma vérité is all about letting the camera become the pen. It is not a tool to simply record a story. Edgar Morin, a French philosopher, wrote:"There are two ways to conceive of the cinema of the Real: the first is to pretend that you can present reality to be seen; the second is to pose the problem of reality. In the same way, there were two ways to conceive cinéma vérité. The first was to pretend that you brought truth. The second was to pose the problem of truth.” In other words, It’s a stylized way of interaction between the filmmaker and the subject; it’s letting the viewer into the world of these characters -- it’s immersion, something The Tree of Life
pulls off exquisitely well.
I feel I would be doing my readers a disservice if I didn’t mention Enter the Void
. The Tree of Life
and Enter the Void
are films that have a lot in common. I personally think the former is better than the latter, but what these film achieve is a sense of immersion; a sense of forgetting you’re in a theater. Films like The Tree of Life
are uncommon, so it is a duty for any film fan to go out and see these films, not at home, but in the theaters. I have tried many times to watch Enter the Void
at home, but it isn’t the same. Viewing both films, it’s easy to see that they were both influence by 2001: A Space Odyssey
. Actually, there are scenes in The tree of Life
that mirrors that of 2001
What Enter the Void
lacks is a good “story”. In reality both films don’t have a story; it’s more of a series of events, but Terrence Malick is a far better writer than Gaspar Noé. The tree of Life
is not just a film filled with pretty colors, but something grander than that; something more personal. The film is visual poetry at its best. Enter the void
is all visuals, and nothing else. Gaspar Noé seems more focus in disturbing his viewers and filming orgies than trying to portray some kind of meaning in his simple film about a simple drug dealer.
Like I said before, visual poetry can be looked down upon, but sometimes a simple shot of a waterfall or a child's fingers are enough to trigger an emotion, and that's exactly what this film did; to the point that I was in tears. The way Brad Pitt's character examines the toes of his child is a shot of beauty; it's amazing how something so simple can have a wealth of emotions. Does it need to have meaning? No. Sometimes staring at something is all you need to bring out emotions. How many people stare at a fire? How many people stare at their hands? How many people stare at a tree being blown back and forth? This film is filled with quick cuts of the ordinary.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, this film is not slow or uses any sort of “pillow shots” (a still shot of nothing happening). The Tree of Life
actually has an MTV style of editing. For instance, you see a shot of a mask floating around the ocean, not for a minute, but for 3 seconds. You see explosions and a bird flying in the bright blue sky all quickly cut together as if a child with attention deficit disorder was in charge of the editing process.
It’s easy to dismiss this film as some artsy-fartsy mess, but by doing so you’re forgetting the true essence of film: telling a story using pictures, sound, and music. The pictures and music is what gives the film its personality; it’s what drives you in.
I was amazed at the “creation” sequence in this film. In realty, it’s nothing special, in the sense that it isn’t some acid trip like 2001
or Enter the Void
. The visuals use nature; the nature that is sitting right next to us: trees, water, grass, mountains, etc. Terrence shows us the violence and wonder the world has to offer. It’s scary how he presents to us something we all seem to forget: nature can be beautifully and horrific, it can bring life and death.
In reality it doesn’t matter what the film is about, but how you felt when watching the film. I felt a sense of regret in my life. I felt regret for not spending more time with my brother. I felt shame for treating my parents badly. I left the theater seriously questioning my life. The film gave me an avenue to look at my life and examine it. How can anyone call this film pretentious when it cares more about the viewer than itself. read