She leaned closer. Her ears straining to hear the introduction. She shushed me with a meaningful look as I continue munching popcorn with the stamina of an Extra Joss-induced college student cramming for his useless term paper. I tempered the mastication. Embarrassed but curious, I noticed her date slouched and unmindful of the narration. The girl stopped listening after ten minutes. Her date moved a bit to stretch his legs then his arms. I am not sure if this is the perfect date movie but I feel it is going to be a long and silent taxi ride for this couple. Same goes for the fifteen courageous or misguided souls inside the theater last night. I cannot help but note their complaints and reactions after sitting through an unusual film. It validates the strange effect of art in general and films in particular to an audience of different purposes and intentions.
Tree of life - at least of the religious and philosophical kind – refers to the interconnection of all life. Like the circle of life. Since it is some sort of a religious motif, almost all religions have their versions of the tree of life. It underscores the need to respect one another since the interconnection reflects a deeper relationship among all life forms. Cannes Film Festival winners do not figure much in local cinemas so it is quite surprising Terrence Malick’s latest polarizing movie is accessible to the Filipino audience. Is it the Brad Pitt factor? Is it it a change of mindset? Or did some film distributor made a mistake in his drunken stupor?
I am torn. Should I consider this movie a triumph in film-making because Malick decided to expand a simple drama with his questions on life and God? Should I call it a dick-act of epic proportions as Malick tries to impress with beautiful images but could not keep things simple and elegant? I am torn. But I am thankful such artists still exist. To rile and touch emotions at the same time is not a manageable job. There is a part of me hankering for a shorter film; stripped of the dream sequences and scenes of evolution. But then there is something delightful in dinosaurs; romantic in rock formations; surreal in school of hammerhead sharks; and thoughtful in soaring trees, interspersed with human life.
Removing these will make the movie just like other run-of-the-mill dramas set in a certain period. I do not think Malick falls under the run-of-the-mill directors. Some people just do their thing. Some people are huge dicks to impose their vision to us and expect positive reciprocation. Such dicks. Such artistic dicks.
It is not the best movie. Not the best Malick movie. I clapped (Jessica Chastain and the child actors are brilliant.); criticized (The hell is beach scene all about.); listened (Narration is delivered in soft voice as if telling the audience to lean closer like that girl in a horrible movie date in front of me.); laughed (Dinosaurs! Chastain sliding ice cubes to wake her kids. Then her offspring exacted revenge with a fat lizard.); smiled (The eldest kid comforting his father after losing his job.); sneered (Sean Penn is doing something.); waited (…for the film to end.) and wondered (…if the general audience will like it.) as the film started, progressed and ended.
I am still torn but I am thankful.