Terrence Malick, Sean Penn don’t understand Tree of Life


Although the announcement of another Terrence Malick film can certainly be seen as exciting, let us not forget about the travesty that was Tree of Life. To reiterate the fact that the film makes no goddamn sense, Sean Penn has admitted that even he is not quite sure what his role in the film is. In an interview with Le Figaro, he had this to say:

I didn’t at all find on the screen the emotion of the script, which is the most magnificent one that I’ve ever read. A clearer and more conventional narrative would have helped the film without, in my opinion, lessening its beauty and its impact. Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing there and what I was supposed to add in that context! What’s more, Terry himself never managed to explain it to me clearly. [emphasis mine]

I should note that he goes on to say that he likes the film and thinks it is meaningful and whatnot, but that’s irrelevant. Generally even a pretentious mess can be explained in some esoteric way, but this is case where nobody really seems to know what was going on. Penn has worked with Malick before, yet he still can’t probably explain the scene’s significance. If this is the case, then it truly doesn’t mean anything at all and should not have been in the film. This is a perfect example of how not to make a movie. It doesn’t matter whether you like Terrence Malick or not, if this is how he operates then he is simply not as competent a filmmaker as he is made out to be. If you cannot explain the meaning of your work, then your work is meaningless. It would seem then that Tree of Life is, indeed, meaningless.

[Le Figaro, via The New Yorker]