SFF 2011: The Tree Of Life: Evolutionary Religion and a Baby Boomer

15 Jun


By Lukey Folkard, Sydney Film Festival Correspondent

As this was my most anticipated film of the SFF, I swore to myself I would write this in the morning and let it percolate a while. My expectations were very high. Though it seemed, after leaving (the aurally and visually distracting) State Theatre last night that a panning would be unanimous. People were looking around confused after the movie looking around in others faces for reassurance that the movie was long, bad and uncomfortable to sit through.

I’m glad I waited.

I didn’t like The Thin Red Line when I first saw it. I found it long and self indulgent, or so I thought at the time, and was looking more for band-mate extra’s that I knew were going to be killed repeatedly in the background. A couple of years later after catching the second half accidently on television I got a piece of the score stuck in my head. It took me a while to figure out where that music came from after stealing and reappropriating it for myself, and on a second proper viewing The Thin Red Line became forever one of my favourite, most rewarding cinema experiences forever. The New World is similarly excellent despite ‘Irish Alexander The Great’ in the starring role.

 

Terrence Malick, I think, succeeds at doing something Kuberick was trying to do and Godfrey Reggio attempts regularly, summing up and/or distilling the human experience, almost as a time capsule for the human race in case of complete global obliteration. Malick’s technique of music and visuals with disjoined dreamlike whispering narrative is something I wholeheartedly subscribe to. But the two previous were historically based. This one parallels the history of Earth and the universe with a post-war 20th-century, white American family experience.

During my screening, there were the few expected walkouts (Even I don’t blame ‘em completely… my ‘munchies’/undiagnosed diabetes got the better of me half way through and took off for a min’ to find me a brownie). Most of these expensive, wine sipping theatregoers aren’t going to be watching a Godfrey Reggio ‘Quatsi movie with me anytime soon. They’re not going to be watching 2001 A Space Odyssey as a visual musical again with me or ever stare at a bunch of pigeons splashing about in a puddle in the park with me. They’re out for a big night at the SFF or anything else Sydney has to offer.

This is a personal film about staring closely or grieving.  Fortunately I am not grieving at the moment, a couple of years ago this would have been the perfect movie, and it still is if you’re feeling oversensitive or cannot handle being offended  by unthoughtful randomness.  The big name stars were unnecessary but good. Malick loves his big names.

A tentative 8.5/10

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