This is the first time someone asked me to watch a movie and to write a review on it. It’s quite overwhelming and I took my time with this. I hope I’ve got it right.
First and foremost, this movie is everything that you are NOT expecting it to be. The Tree of Life is a Terrance Malick movie. Period. Anyone who is familiar with his style of direction will not be so taken aback, but I belonged to the not-so-familiar category. I was sent reeling 30 minutes into the movie. I’m hyperventilating now. I need to take a deep breath and try to prepare you what you’re in for.
Here it goes.
For persons who thought that this movie starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken is a routine indie or worse an action-packed drama film. It is not. Do not expect to understand this movie in its entirety, moreso in just one watch. Do not expect to find answers here in this blog, either. I cannot provide them.
The movie starts with a narrative, “There are two ways through life, the way of nature and the way of grace.” Little do you realize how much those words are going to resonate in all the scenes that are to follow. Malick uses intense nature happenings, titillating celestial occurrences combined with the evolution of life, even dinosaurs (right!). The 20 minute music montage at the start, it is pure brilliance. There are no dialogues or commentary just the representation of life through nature and Mother Earth. The imagery is all too powerful to encompass in one watch. My friend and I, both, admitted to have paused the movie several times just to get a grasp of the intensity of the cinematography. There is one scene that keeps repeating over and over in between clips and it could seem like a divine light manifesting as we move further into the movie. It would be fair to say that the music montage chosen is very, very haunting. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so eerie while watching waterfalls and organic molecules, the sun and volcanic eruptions.
If you get past the first 30 minutes of the movie, you’re in for something very beautiful. The movie transcends beyond nature into finer details of an American family and their lives in 1956. The lack of conversation and dialogues is not felt at all. This, the director has made sure with very emotive performances from every actor, especially from the child artists. The film moves back and forth from the eldest son’s point of view. The eldest of three sons who is now caged in a corporate world and battling with the issues from his past. There is also the mention of a tragedy at the very start of the movie. The worst of them all. Death.
The characters of the parents are portrayed as complete opposites. I daresay, I think the opening statement signifies that. The mother, gentle, naïve, always looking out for her kids, beautiful and calm and not over-bearing in the least. That, is the way of ‘grace’. Whereas, the father, played brilliantly by Brad Pitt, epitomizes the way of nature. Lauding, overbearing, he provides but never fails to collect his dues. He wants returned what he has provided, on his very terms.
What I liked most about this out-of-the-way movie, was the way they depicted the three boys growing up. There are some very powerful scenes, one of which I had to re-watch again just now because it felt like deja-vu.
The Tree of Life will only leave you with a myriad of questions. Some of which, you’ll need a very deep analysis to even grasp at all. We are all continuously evolving. Life, is all about evolving. From birth, to adolescence, to adulthood and death. It is amazing and so refreshing that all of human evolution can be roughly narrated in a matter of 2 hours. Watch this movie without any kind of expectations. Feel yourself take to a higher order, maybe. Question everything. Don’t criticize. It’s of no use. Every person who tries to breakdown what this movie is about will have a wildly different interpretation. This, is mine.
I never considered blogging about this until I found an insane connection with someone across the world who had also watched ‘Hey Arnold!’ and had the same attachment and admiration for the show, its characters and all that fell in between. I really think it has been an insane ride and I owe this cartoon show due credit for making my childhood awesome and my teens even better.
I could make a list of all my favourite ‘Hey Arnold!’ episodes. Hell, I could quote to you the entire ‘Helga Goes blind’, ‘Helga On The couch’, ‘Pigeon Man’, ‘The Little Pink Book’, and countless other episodes but that would only imply copy-pasting from one place to another, that which already exists. I do not like to write like that and I think my Music Musings category suffices that kind of writing as it is. Of course, when you’re talking about a band or its background, Wikipedia seems the best way to go. However, I want to pour My Heart out about a fictional character that has played a significant part in my childhood days and continues to do so, even now. For this, I suppose, no sort of Wikipedia copy-pasting would ever do justice.
It would seem strange to many how I uphold a 9 year old with so much regard and even consider her as my idol till date. But we speak about no ordinary 4th grader here. We talk of P.S. 118’s pink dressed bully with an iron fist, Helga Geraldine Pataki (All right, I got the middle name from Wiki, bite me?) When I talk of Helga Pataki all I can think about is that she and I have too many things in common. She and I could essentially be conjoined sisters in another dimension and not give each other a hard time because we would get along perfectly.
We would get along not in that Phoebe-Helga way where Helga dominated and Phoebe buckled. Phoebe was probably the only person who could pass as Helga’s friend. But Helga and I both know that we would much rather not have someone so soft-spoken and with a heart made of sponge, someone who thought a hundred times before they said anything and drove you mad in the interim time between the utterance of two sentences. We would want someone who gave us enough reason to get angry but never, never for the wrong reasons. The anger would be for things which couldn’t be changed and that in itself was reason enough to be mad. All the Time. At The World. In general.
I consider myself Helga Pataki reincarnate, however mathematics was never my weak point. I could’ve helped Helga with it had she not had a hole in her Math book to keep her invaluable love possessions. I promise I’ll get to that later. Meanwhile, Helga excelled in the literary arts, she had a penchant for poetry, for vividly remembering poets and their works. Also, for a girl her age, she had ideologies and faith in authors so much more mature. How could I not adore Helga in spite of the gruff image she portrayed? How could I let her unibrow and pink bow bother me? Helga on the surface seemed like a person with a pessimistic approach to the world, she couldn’t express her emotions to anyone and often claimed she cared for no one, she was a tomboy and at the same time indulged in beautifully mature and profound soliloquy’s when she was alone.
Helga was always more than what met the eye. One could only see her true nature when she was hiding behind a trash can or in a narrow alley and especially when she was kneeling down in the shrine of her closet. A shrine built of chewed gum and other trinkets collected over time from the boy she secretly worshipped and insanely loved. A football-headed boy named Arnold. Arnold who spun her world around and made her feel things she normally wouldn’t ever want to feel, much less admit to herself about having feelings. Arnold, who with his compassion had won her heart right from their first encounter which you can see in ‘Helga On The Couch’. Helga was always torn between wanting to embrace Arnold and giving him a tough time. She always stuck to the latter and it never did her any good. I think that stems from deep, psychological childhood issues where you begin to think you are incapable of being loved and deserve no form of it whatsoever. Arnold was always patient and bore her insults and snaps with perfect dignity which deep down drove Helga crazy. Crazy enough to write a poem with her name on it dedicated to Arnold. Of course, she had no intentions of letting anyone see it until she was dead and rotting in her grave. Probably not even then. Situations would have it otherwise. Now that tempts me to watch ‘The Little Pink Book’.
Those poems weren’t meant to be seen until I am dead
and buried and worms have consumed my flesh.
When it came to Helga’s family life, I understand better now what it was that shaped her into the person she became. No one can ever be born all hellfire and it’s a well-known fact that bullies are persons with deeply-rooted insecurities. Now when I see some episodes where they show her interactions with her parents, I can completely comprehend what it must feel like to grow up with a dad who barely ever got her name right and a mother was always passed out in a drunken stupor and never managed to prepare her lunch. Helga grew up on her own. What was worse was that she had an over-achiever sister Olga who was dearly adored by her parents and Helga was conveniently ignored, left to fend for herself. I don’t think I ever thought about that when I watched Hey Arnold! back in the 90’s.
Hey Arnold! was never a senseless cartoon show which surrounded kids with no personality and only intriguing faces. Every Hey Arnold! Episode was something that could appeal to a much older audience in the ways that they broke down some of the more complex problems into a much more receptive format from children’s point of view.
Arnold lived with his grandfather and there was hardly ever a mention of his adventurer parents. His grandmother, I now figured showed early on-set of dementia and could never remember which holiday it was. The tenants in Arnold’s building had issues of their own and were sometimes shown as a side-story in some episodes.
Every student in P.S. 118 had a unique archetype and it never failed to make me laugh when Brainy would stand behind Helga’s neck and breathe heavily in that annoying as hell manner.I think my person and I laughed a fair bit at how she would punch him with the back of her palm.
Getting back to the essence of this post, although the series was titled Hey Arnold! I will always hold true that it was more about Helga’s crazy obsession with him which she could never come to terms with. I loved how Helga would blame him for every mishap in her life and exaggerate it to such an extent that poor Arnold would simply have to apologize or ‘get out of her way’.
Helga hurled insults at everyone but the attention she gave Arnold should never have missed his eye. I wonder sometimes, are all boys seriously so oblivious to a girl crushing on them? Is it that difficult to come to that one conclusion but think about every other impossible one? Arnold should’ve known that he wasn’t doing anything that awful to make Helga hate him, he ought to have noticed how she magically landed up behind trees in the park right where he was, how every weird, inexplicable thing always had some sort of connection which could be traced back to her, and don’t tell me he never caught her collecting chunks of his hair and pieces of chewed gum, are you saying he never noticed her behind trash cans drooling over a Heart-shaped locket with his Football-shaped head in it? But I also like to believe now that it was never meant for Arnold to know about Helga’s undying passion. There’s a reason a viewer would keep returning to a show because unrequited love can succeed in a way once requited love cannot.
P.S. I will never, I mean NEVER blog about Hey Arnold! The Movie. Not even at gun point. I have no desire to blog about something that ruined the essential nature of the characters just to achieve end results and satisfy the dumb section of the audience. Good day.