Twowaysthroughlife.com, the new interactive website to The Tree of Life launched yesterday, pouring more fuel upon the flames of anticipation for Terrence Malick fanboys and fangirls the world over (yours truly included). What the new site lacks in hard details about the film (slightly more of those can be found in the original movie site on Fox Searchlight), it makes up for in its seductive aura, magnifying the already-enormous halo around all things Malick (could he be the Steve Jobs of cinema?) Central to the site’s mystifying heft is how it spins you between presentational extremes of simplicity and abundance until you’re dizzy with frustration and delight.
The landing page features an array of images from the film, each of which are clickable – but they all lead to the same secondary page, where ominous horns mixed with an ambient hum (think Inception soundtrack gone New Age) ushers you to a womb-colored planetscape and two options: The Father’s Way or The Mother’s Way. You click on one of these and whoosh – the screen opens up and ten clips fan out for you to play. Click the other parent’s way and whoosh – another ten clips. Holy Q’orianka Kilcher, that’s 20 scenes from the film to dive into!
But the fun comes to a screeching halt when you click on one of these – and get anywhere between 2-7 seconds of something before it stops. At first you’ll wonder if there’s a glitch. Nope, it’s just part of the tease. It’s some kind of director and marketing team to think they can get away with this degree of pre-release tantalization on the audience, it borders on sadistic.
Apparently all the clips seem to be from scenes involving formative childhood scenes involving a boy (who as an adult is played by Sean Penn, who doesn’t appear in any of the clips), his father (Brad Pitt), his mother (Jessica Chastain)… plus some mysterious imagery involving outer space and human biology. Assuming the film runs in chronological order it may just be the first half of the film that we’re looking at. It’s all speculative obviously – even with these clips who knows what this film is about, other than what could be the cinematic outcome of some deeply Oedipal shit Malick has been working through. But after going through them all, we picked seven clips that are particularly evocative. If you want more, go to twowaysthroughlife.com
6. Brad Pitt crying and crippled
The caption accompanying this clip reads: “He grieves for her more than he grieves for himself.” So his wife dies? He is wounded, both emotionally and physically (cf. the limp). This kind of symbolism feels familiar, but that’s The Malick’s way, painting simple, eternal themes with a broad sweep of his cinematic brush.
5. CGI plague
“All a chaos” is the text under this clip – are they birds? locusts? A semi-solid tentacle from some offscreen octapod? Of course it’s meant to make you click on it over and over to decipher what it is. But we know better than to do that, don’t we? Sigh.
4. Kubrick tribute?
This is actually not one of the clips among the twenty available (it’s the clip that plays behind them in the menu). But who cares. It is f*cking gorgeous.
3. Spielberg tribute?
If this clip means what I think it means – that The Malick agrees with me that A.I.: Artificial Intelligence was one of the best films of recent memory and thus worthy of an homage (as this appears to be), then my day is made.
2. Cellular biography as you’ve never seen it before
Suddenly the talk of a Fantastic Voyage remake doesn’t seem like a bad idea.
1. Handcuffed guy doing the angry dance in car
I don’t know what it is about this clip, but I can’t get this guy out of my head. I think he could be a video meme waiting to happen. Or a new dance craze.