Tree of Life (2011)
Terrence Malick, USA
Oh Terrence Malick, what exactly goes on inside that elusive mind of yours? It might sound like a cop-out to describe a film as being about 'life', because, what movie doesn't ponder about our existence to some degree? Well, with Tree of Life, there really isn't any other way of describing this magnificent piece of cinema, rendering such a statement completely accurate. I remember this being one of the last movies I saw at the now defunct AMC 20 at Kennedy Commons (shout-out to anyone from Scarborough), and the theatre was completely silent from beginning to end. Let's step back for one second and consider that this is a movie with a runtime of 139 minutes, has hardly any dialogue, and for its first 15 minutes, legitimately feels like a National Geographic documentary. I mean, there were even volcano eruptions and dinosaurs prancing around for god's sake (but no David Suzuki narration, unfortunately). And despite all this, the entire audience - myself included - was completely mesmerized and trapped in this errorless cinematic experience created by a true genius. With Tree of Life, you're presented with an audio-visual essay of how beautiful and complex life is, in a way that also reminds you of why cinema is an artistic medium unlike any other. Despite being quite abstract and challenging by conventional standards, at the end of the film, Tree of Life actually feels oddly universal. It says so much by doing wonders on screen, yet also feels minimalistic when you realize there isn't much of an underlying story here. One might even argue that not much happens here, but they'd be dead wrong. And the music? As if Smetana's Moldau wasn't beautiful enough, Terrence Malick went and made that piece even better. If only I was able to go to that live orchestra performance in New York. And while you can argue that any film is an experience, you don't normally get an experience that mimics the emotional realities of being human quite like this. It's really hard to put in words; you just gotta see it to understand.