tree of life (2011)

Style change? the volcano erupts in slow motion. A film by Terence Malick. Wherein he finally asks the question. If the core of The New World involved nature versus nurture, Tree of Life sees grace versus nature as the mystery. The first hour wanders and drifts, a confused time traveller, the second hour tuning us in to the characters who populated the visions. This is Malick continuing to mature, almost forty years into his career, his films have always been meditative yet never wandering far from his narrative, human through-line; here we see that reliance begin its breakdown. When the story catches, the extreme highs and lows of family social structure, we are plunged into an intimate progression, an unending degeneration, escalation leading to destruction. The parallels between the large and small scale scope of our two halves are obvious; seemingly small decisions to follow grace and mercy or to follow nature and survival building to a boil, counterbalancing, one goes up the other goes down, the perils of dependency, but we have to depend on something, we are only human; and balance is the only law of nature. Cathartic? you bet. Malick's masterwork? it is his most wrenching film by far. Was he taking it easy all these years because he didn't think we could handle it? of course not, it was a place he was not prepared to go, but going there, to the hazy area between action and intent, we are left with one simple truth; intent fades, actions remain, and then one day, the actions are forgiven. To be wounded, trapped, and still remain, even the reptiles who owned this space before us understood.