Art often becomes a victim of it’s own genre’. Of the very fashion or new trend it created. and then becomes resistant to change. Film does the same. For too many years it has been stuck in ‘meaning’. While meaning is essential to the viewer, surely Art provokes the viewers to explore meanings for themselves. Through the experience of the Art. So does the Artist give meaning before he/she gives experience, or does the experience of Art come before meaning ? Is experience derived from meaning, or is meaning derived from experience ?
I met Terrence Mallick the evening before the film premiered at Cannes. Without realizing who I was speaking to. I said ‘Tree of life’ was the one film I was looking forward to. He said ‘Come armed with patience’.
I did not need to. From the first moment I caught on immediately that the film maker was asking me to experience, and let meaning evolve out of that experience. If not while watching the film, then later the next day. Or the next. He was offering me his experience and asking me to interpret it my way.
And what an amazing experience. From the birth of the Universe, to the human like instinct of the dinosaurs. That amazing shot of the dinosaur at the beach trying to understand it’s wound, caught as it is between being amphibian to reptilian. Did Malick intend that ? I don’t know, but the shot made me cry for the dinosaur, because somehow, the director had burrowed inside my mind to relate human behaviour to evolution. To an understanding of ourselves as we moved to who we are in evolution. To the tree of life.
I actually wish people would not say this is Brad Pitts best performance. It is a terrific performance. But to say that takes away form the film. For that character is not supposed be seen in context of the individual. He is as an integral part of the dynamics of the Big Bang and the incredible moment where the dinosaur considers crushing the the baby dinosaur under it’s giant claws. What was going on in it’s mind when it decided to leave it alone.
And when was the last time I seriously wondered about the imaginative process of a dinosaur ?
And Jessica Chastain, as an embodiment of all that is nurturing in the Universe. That the Universe in itself is nurture. And in nurture lies creation. In creation lies destruction. The acceptance of the death of her child so gently by the film is the acceptance of the nurturing quality of the film.
So beautifully potrayed by the final scene on the beach. Like a final movement in a symphony. That all of life, all of birth, all of death exists in a single moment of eternity.
The Tree of Life is Eternal.
Thank Terrence. Thank you for reminding us that we are stuck in ‘plot’. That for the art of cinema to survive and continue to be meaningful, it must first destroy it’s narrow minded desire for meaning. That like the Universe it needs to die and be reborn to be eternal.