Symphonic Style Roots Malick's 'Tree Of Life' Terrence Malick's sweeping spiritual epic plays out more like a gorgeous symphony than a movie. Jumping from a family drama in 1950s Texas to the beginning of time, Malick crafts a visually beautiful — and at times incoherent — narrative that throbs with poetry in every frame. (Recommended)
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Symphonic Style Roots Malick's 'Tree Of Life'

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Symphonic Style Roots Malick's 'Tree Of Life'

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Symphonic Style Roots Malick's 'Tree Of Life'

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And our critic Bob Mondello guesses it will continue to divide audiences.

BOB MONDELLO: The film is gorgeous and abstract, leaping around in time and space, structured in movements, more like a symphony than a conventional narrative.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE TREE OF LIFE")

JESSICA CHASTAIN: (as Mrs. O'Brien) There are two ways through life: the way of nature and the way of grace.

MONDELLO: Jessica Chastain stating the film's theme.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE TREE OF LIFE")

CHASTAIN: (as Mrs. O'Brien) You have to choose which one you'll follow.

MONDELLO: Nature or grace, the choice she puts to her three young sons in the 1950s, a time when she is so filled with grace, so crazily idealized by the filmmaker that, at one point, he has a butterfly alight on her outstretched hand. Her husband, played by Brad Pitt with jutting jaw and buzz cut hair, is attuned not to grace but to a natural world that can be both nurturing and volcanic. One of their three boys will die at 19, an event so shattering that to make sense of it, director Terrence Malick looks to the very origins of the universe.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONDELLO: I remember reading a James Michener novel once and marveling at its stately narrative pace, so unhurried, that on page 87, mountain ranges were still forming. This passage in "The Tree Of Life" is like that. It's as if to understand the death of a young man, we need to understand everything that led to his creation - starting with creation itself.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONDELLO: Then we're plunged back into an Eden before the fall, envisioned as a '50s suburbia that's reportedly not unlike the one the filmmaker grew up in - graceful mom, stern dad, three young boys all still happy as they play kick the can and break windows and run carefree after a spray truck through white clouds of DDT. Jack, the eldest of the boys, does all these things ever wary of his father, who's been disappointed by life and hardened and wants his sons hardened too.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE TREE OF LIFE")

BRAD PITT: (as Mr. O'Brien) Nice. That's a good right. Let's see your left. This is the most important thing, OK? You come in this way. You come in this way. Keep your guard up. Hit me. Come on, hit me. Come on. Come on, Jack. Hit me.

MONDELLO: I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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