A Critical Analysis of Tree of Life by Terrance Malick

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Tree of Life Directed by Terrence Malick

In the thirty-eight years Terrence Malick has been developing his craft, and in many ways revolutionizing the world of film and cinematography, “Tree of Life” has been the fifth feature release to be garnished with his directorial efforts. As is usual of Malick, “Tree of Life” is no usual film. The story is told throughout in a very impressionistic and episodic manner, with all the images and events seeming almost irrational and random on the surface, but like most of his, perfectly cohesive, with dense substance, and incredible beauty. The film moves the story along like a river. With no beginning, middle or end, the images and music stem out from a main idea that take the viewer on a journey of life, and the different ways people deal with it and are affected by it - much like he does with “Thin Red Line” (1998) and “The New World” (2005).

The Editing of the film is quite unconventional, straying away from the typical three-tiered story telling. The film begins with a biblical quote, which then fades out and back in to a shot of an abstract image of orange-yellow “light” alongside a voice narrating. Malick then begins to introduce characters. He is very careful so as to how he does this, given each character is used to symbolize a face of the way people confront life.

The first character introduced is Mrs. O’Brien (Jessica Chastain). She is first shown as child, filmed playing in nature, as a voice over, talking about how in one must follow the path of either grace, or that of nature. There are shots, then, of trees, flowers, and flowing grass tying her character to nature, tranquility. The colors focused on are light, soft pastels. During her introduction, melodic, beautiful music is played, and yet, it also holds an unsettled and eerie quality about it. Her character, throughout the film is always shot in a manner that paints her as if in tune with her natural surroundings, which Malick does in order...
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