USA: Terence Malick, 2011
If I were creating a list of the most ambitious, 'important' or profound films of 2011, Terence Malick's THE TREE OF LIFE (winner of the coveted Palme d'Or, and ranked the year's best film by Sight & Sound magazine) would undoubtedly be at the top of the pile. The artistic and thematic endeavor Malick brings to recreating and charting the inception of life on our planet (from the Big Bang, the reign of the Dinosaurs to the intimate drama of a man recalling his childhood) is nothing short of immense. In its best moments THE TREE OF LIFE recalls the aesthetic and religious transcendence of Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. However, I found these moments to be all too fleeting and rather aptly ethereal.
Despite Malick's trademark style for lush 'snapshots of nature' visuals accompanied by poetic voice-over dialogue the film often meanders in pace, pushing its contrived fragmented narrative structure to the fore which actually blights the fragile human drama (effectively portrayed by the cast of Jessica Chastain, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and the young Hunter McCracken) within. Ultimately, THE TREE OF LIFE is a film like no other I've seen in 2011 but I can't deny my own personal reaction to the film is both positive and negative. Thus, it'll only make an honourable mention for me.
The Count's Verdict: Essential for Malick fans. For all others it is destined to enthral and euthanise in equal measure.