On Being Artsy Fartsy

31 01 2012

So sue me. I’m an artsy fartsy filmmaker. And I’m an artsy fartsy film lover. Which means I like to watch those films…yeah, the ones that the most people have never heard of, the ones that leave you hanging and make you think, the ones that are dark and somewhat dysfunctional, the ones that at the end leave you going “Whaaaaa???!!!”

I just finished watching “The Tree of Life,” which was kind of one of those films. I should have known it would be, given the disclaimer that flashed on the screen at the beginning of the movie which basically said “If you want to enjoy this movie, you will have to turn your TV up very loud.” I knew what that meant–that the film was going to have a lot of whispering and breathy inner dialogues about life. While many may have heard of this film because it stars Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain, the reviews I had heard about the movie were not favorable. After watching it I can see why it would get such reviews. An impressionistic film in every sense of the word, the film does not follow a linear story structure. To explain further, Wikipedia’s synopsis of the film describes it like this:  “[Terrence] Malick’s film chronicles the origins and meaning of life by way of a middle-aged man’s childhood memories of his family living in 1950s Texas, interspersed with imagery of the origins of the universe and the inception of life on Earth.” During several moments throughout the film, there are seemingly sporadic images of galaxies and volcanoes erupting, reptiles looking for prey, and asteroids hitting the earth.

It’s true. I’m not making this up. But the beauty of the film is that it’s a great, artistic interpretation of man’s existence on earth, and our relationship to God and the universe. The film attempted to grapple with some important issues such as: Where is God in the midst of suffering? Who am I? Am I a bad person? Does God care? The end of the film is a very interesting interpretation of what restoration in a fallen world looks like.

It’s movies like these that make me love being a filmmaker. The ability to address existential questions in a way that is insightful, intriguing and artistic is something that I strive to do. The film is nominated for 3 Academy Awards, so we’ll see how it fares. The Academy often tends to like artsy fartsy films too so only time will tell. 🙂

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