The Tree Of Life Opening Quotes For Personal Statements

Without question, the most common place for writers to exercise their freedom in personal statements, as well as the most common place where writers feel uncertain about what they’ve done, is in their beginnings. Even personal statements that are scientific in tone and content might have creative beginnings. Although there’s nothing wrong with a straightforward opening simply stating your purpose, especially if you have just one page for your essay, most writers take a bolder tack. Readers of personal statements are used to openings that tell stories or borrow quotations, essays that discuss relevant current events, and even daring writers who risk a bit of well-conceived humor or surprise.

Personal Stories

As the most common creative beginning, a personal story tells a tale by briefly setting a scene, often capturing some formative moment of your past when your interest in your course of study blossomed. Whether setting the scene in a classroom or on a mountaintop, remember that your goal is make readers feel they are there with you, and remember that the setting itself can be a character in your “short story”—influencing both the action and a response to that action.

Here is a perfect example of a lengthy creative beginning that winds its way into a formal thesis statement, excerpted from a Rhodes Scholarship essay in Chapter 5:

Soaked in sweat, I sat deep in thought on the small mound of sand and broken rocks in northern Kenya, where 1.7 million years ago a desperately ill Homo erectus woman had died. Her death had entranced me for years. KNM-ER 1808 had died of Hypervitaminosis A, wherein an overdose of Vitamin A causes extensive hemorrhaging throughout the skeleton and excruciating pain. Yet a thick rind of diseased bone all over her skeleton—ossified blood clots—tells that 1808 lived for weeks, even months, immobilized by pain and in the middle of the African bush. As noted in The Wisdom of the Bones, by Walker and Shipman, that means that someone had cared for her, brought her water, food, and kept away predators. At 1.7 million years of age, 1808’s mere pile of bones is a breathtaking, poignant glimpse of how people have struggled with disease over the ages. Since that moment two summers ago, I’ve been fascinated by humans’ relationship with disease. I want to research paleopathology, the study of ancient diseases, in relation to human culture, specifically sex and gender.

Note how this opening confidently integrates technical detail and even slips in an informal citation on the journey to the thesis. Here, setting acts as a character, moving our story’s protagonist to imagine a woman’s long-ago death, and we also recognize the writer’s seriousness of purpose about her work as she (as a character in the tale) contemplates the woman’s fate from a “small mound of sand and broken rocks in northern Kenya.” Just as she was taken to this important place and moment in her life, we are taken there with her as well through narrative.

Here is another example from an introduction to a student's application to medical school:

When I was little my grandfather gave me piggyback rides, brought me donuts every day when he came home from work, and taught me about nature. A simple farmer who survived World War II and lived most of his life under Russian occupation, he told me why trees grow so high, why I should not pull a cow by its ear, and why I should not chase chickens across the back yard. As fond as I was of him, as I grew and became more educated I also saw how this great man made bad choices about his health. I constantly nagged him about his smoking and poor diet. He loved bacon with eggs and milk straight from the cow. In response to my nagging he would simply say, "Eh, you are so young, what do you know?" One morning after breakfast when I was sixteen, he had a heart attack and died in the kitchen while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

Here we find a writer who simultaneously evokes the memory of his beloved grandfather and also introduces us to his own sensibility. Simple details about his simple upbringing make up a brief but vivid tale with a tragic end, and thus we understand a very personal motivation behind this writer's choice of career.

Other essays open with much briefer and less narrative personal stories, sometimes relying on just one line to set the context, with the writer heading to a purpose statement shortly thereafter. Here are some straightforward but artful beginnings to personal statements from Donald Asher’s book Graduate Admissions Essays:

I attended seventeen different schools before high school.
I spent the morning of my eighteenth birthday in an auditorium with two hundred strangers.
Radio has been my passion for as long as I can remember.

Clearly, the style of an opening that shares a personal story can range from the flashy to the plain—what matters most is that the opening truly is personal.

Compelling Quotations

Like many writers and readers, I’m a sucker for a good meaty quotable quote, which is part of why quotations are used to open each chapter of this handbook. We tape handwritten quotes on our bathroom mirrors, clip them onto the visors in our cars, and paste them into our e-mail signature lines. In a personal essay, not only do quotes set context for the reader, they also allow you to ride on the broad shoulders of another who actually managed to say or write something that was worth quoting. Quotations might be used at the start of the essay, in the closing, or they might appear at a key moment within the body as a way to set context or emphasize a point. In Chapter 5 of this handbook, a quotation is used as an opening to a science-related essay by an applicant for a National Science Foundation Fellowship. In the same chapter, another writer uses a narrative opening in her essay to repeat a favorite quote that her mother used to say: “To find out where you’re going, you need to know where home is.”

Keep in mind that some quotations are highly overused and that quotations can also come off as merely trite and silly, depending on the taste of the reader. Some find Forrest Gump’s “Life is like a box of chocolates” hilarious; others just groan when they hear it. If using a quotation, be sure that you’re not just propping yourself up on it as an apology for a lack of substance to your text. Comment on the quotation’s relevance to your life rather than just let it sit there, and choose the most meaningful quote for the circumstances rather than one that simply tickles your fancy.

The Use of Surprise or Humor

Indeed, the weapon of surprise is a key ingredient in a Monty Python skit about the Spanish Inquisition (no one expects it, just in case you forgot). But in a personal statement humor and surprise can fall flat in the hands of a fumbling writer. Nevertheless, some writers take these calculated risks, and do so with style. Witness this passage from a sample essay in Chapter 4, as a film student explains how he spent his freshman year in a different major:

With a high school education grounded rigorously in math and science, I entered Mythic University on an academic scholarship with Polymer Science and Engineering as my intended major. I like to joke that, after seeing Mike Nichols’ film The Graduate and hearing that terrific line, “plastics,” delivered poolside to a wayward Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), I was inadvertently led into the hands of the great polymer Satan. But, by sophomore year, I quickly escaped the plastic devil’s clasp and found a new home in the film department.

Here, this student uses self-deprecating humor as many do in the personal statement: to explain what might otherwise look like a curiosity in his background. Readers need not question his devotion to film despite his beginning in the sciences—he even blends the two interests together by being influenced into his initial major by a film, aligning himself briefly and humorously with the hapless character of Benjamin Braddock.

Others use humor or surprise less expansively, but again with the purpose of revealing something personal and using intentional self-commentary. In Mark Allen Stewart’s How to Write the Perfect Personal Statement, one writer quips that his high school classmates voted him “Most likely to have a publishable resume,” which shows that this writer can simultaneously poke fun at and uplift himself. In Donald Asher’s Graduate Admissions Essays. Another writer opens her essay unconventionally with a surprising admission—“Skeletons. Like everyone else I have some hanging in my closet”—then later reveals herself as a “survivor of sexual assault.” Here, the writer’s tone is surprisingly frank, which under the circumstances could help her be viewed as mature and courageous, despite the risk she takes.

Part of what unifies these disparate approaches above is that the writers clearly know they are taking a risk with their rhetoric—there’s nothing accidental or highly cutesy about it. All of them reveal a passion for their chosen fields, and the humor and surprise are attention-getting without being too distracting.

Perhaps a good rule of thumb, then, is this: If using humor or surprise, aim it squarely at yourself without making yourself look silly or undermining your character, and dispense with it quickly rather than push it over the top. No matter how well you tell a joke, some readers may not care for it. And remember that not everyone likes, or even "gets," Monty Python.

Topical Context

It’s often said that one of the best ways to prepare for an interview for a national scholarship is to read The New York Times and be ready to discuss current events. If you make it to the interview selection stage, it’s already clear that you have an excellent academic record and look good on paper. What’s unclear is how you will present in person. By showing yourself to be not just committed to your field but also knowledgeable about the world, you paint yourself as a mature thinker, an informed citizen, a responsible student of life.

In a personal statement, writers typically create topical context by narrating a recent event of some consequence, citing a respected source, or simply establishing an arena for discussion. “Martial arts and medicine,” opens one personal essay from Richard Stelzer’s How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School, using an intentional sentence fragment to grab our attention and to crisply define two intertwined themes in the writer’s life. Other essays—the first from the Asher book and the second from the Stelzer book cited above—lend a sense of importance to their subject matter through topical references:

As I write this statement, Governor Mario Cuomo makes preparations to vacate the Executive Mansion in Albany, New York, after New Yorkers rejected his appeal for another term.
As the United States launched yet another small war in a distant corner of the globe, Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen returned to life and captivated a hometown audience in Pekin, Illinois, with the folksy eloquence that made him nationally famous.

As these politically savvy allusions show, writers who use topical references impress upon their readers that they are both informed and concerned. Here, the color of one’s political stripes is irrelevant—what matters is that they are painted clearly. Whether employing a political reference or citing a current event, when you create topical context you represent yourself as a keen observer of the world.


The Tree of Life is a 2011 American experimentalepicdrama film written and directed by Terrence Malick and featuring a cast of Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler, Jessica Chastain, and Tye Sheridan in his debut feature film role. The 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 known universe and the inception of life on Earth.

After several years in development and missing its supposed 2009 and 2010 release dates, The Tree of Life premiered in competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it was awarded the Palme d'Or. It ranked no. 1 on review aggregator Metacritic's "Top Ten List of 2011",[4] and in January 2012 was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography.

The Tree of Life made more critics' year-end lists for 2011 than any other film.[5] It has appeared in the 2012 Sight & Sound critics' poll of the world's top 250 films[6] as well as BBC's poll of the greatest American films,[7] one of the few 21st-century works to be included in both.


The film begins with a quotation from the Book of Job: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth?... When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?"

A mysterious, wavering light, resembling a flame, flickers in the darkness. Mrs. O'Brien recalls a lesson taught to her that people must choose to follow either the path of grace or the path of nature. In the 1960s or thereabouts, she receives a telegram informing her of the death of her son, R.L., aged nineteen. Mr. O'Brien is notified by telephone while at an airport. The family is thrown into turmoil.

In the present day, the O'Briens' eldest son, Jack, is adrift in his modern life as an architect. One day he apologizes to his father on the phone for something he said about R.L.'s death. In his office, Jack begins reflecting; shots of tall buildings under the sky, Jack wandering in the desert, trees that stretch from the ground up to the sun high in their leaves, and scenes from his 1950s childhood all link together and lead back to the flame.

From the darkness the universe is born, the Milky Way and then the solar system form while voice-overs ask existential questions. On the newly formedEarth, volcanoes erupt and microbes begin to form and replicate. Sea life is born, then plants on land, then dinosaurs.[8] In a symbolic first act of compassion, a dinosaur chooses not to eat a weakened creature that is lying on the side of a river bed. An asteroid tumbles through space and strikes the Earth, causing the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.

In a sprawling suburban neighborhood in the American South live the O'Briens. The young couple is enthralled by their new baby Jack and, later, his two brothers. When Jack reaches adolescence, he is faced with the conflict of accepting the way of grace or nature, as embodied by each of his parents. Mrs. O'Brien is gentle, nurturing, and authoritative, presenting the world to her children as a place of wonder. Mr. O'Brien is strict and authoritarian, and easily loses his temper as he struggles to reconcile his love for his sons with wanting to prepare them for a world he sees as corrupt and exploitative. He laments his decision to work in a power plant instead of pursuing his passion for music. He tries to get ahead by filing patents for various inventions.

Jack's perceptions of the world begin to change after one of his boyhood companions drowns at the pool and another is burned in a house fire. He becomes angry at his father for his bullying behavior and begins to keep a running tally of Mr. O'Brien's various hypocrisies and misdeeds, lashing out at his mother for tolerating such abusive behavior.

One summer, Mr. O'Brien takes a long business trip. While he is away, the boys enjoy unfettered access to their mother, and Jack experiences the first twinges of rebelliousness. Goaded by other boys his age, Jack commits acts of vandalism and animal abuse. He later trespasses into a neighbor's house and steals her sheer nightgown. Jack is confused and angered by his feelings of sexuality and guilty trespass. He throws the stolen lingerie into a river to rid himself of it. Mr. O'Brien returns home from his business trip. Shortly thereafter, the plant that he works at closes and he is given the option of relocating to work in an inferior position within the firm or losing his job. He and his family pack up to move to the new job location. He laments the course his life has taken, questioning whether he has been a good enough person. He asks Jack for forgiveness for his harsh treatment of him.

In the present, adult Jack leaves work. Riding the elevator up, he experiences a vision of following a young girl across rocky terrain. Jack tentatively walks through a wooden door frame erected on the rocks and sees a view of the far distant future in which the sun expands into a red giant, engulfing the earth and then shrinking into a feeble white dwarf. Someone says "follow me" in the darkness, which is ended by the lighting of two candles. After emerging from rustic doors, Jack follows the girl and then a young version of himself across surreal landscapes. On a sandbar, Jack sees images of death and the dead returning to life. He is reunited with his family and all the people who populate his memory. His father is happy to see him. He encounters his dead brother, whom he brings to his parents. The parents are then seen saying goodbye to the young brother as he steps out of a home into a vast expanse. Accompanied by a woman in white and a young woman, Mrs. O'Brien looks to the sky and whispers, "I give him to you. I give you my son."

Jack's vision ends and he leaves the building smiling, while nature returns to the surrounding buildings as the sky is reflected in them.

The mysterious wavering light continues to flicker in the darkness.




Terrence Malick pitched the concept of The Tree of Life to River Road Entertainment head Bill Pohlad while the two were collaborating on an early version of Che. Pohlad recalls initially thinking the idea was "crazy," but as the film concept evolved, he came to feel strongly about the idea;[9] he ended up financing the film.[10] Producer Grant Hill was also involved with the film at an early stage.[10] During a meeting on a different subject involving Malick, his producer Sarah Green, Brad Pitt, and Pitt's Plan B Entertainment production partner Dede Gardner, Malick brought up Tree of Life and the difficulties it was having getting made.[11] It was "much later on" that the decision was made for Pitt to be part of the cast.[11]

The Tree of Life was announced in late 2005, with Indian production company Percept Picture Company set to finance it and Donald Rosenfeld on board as executive producer. The film was set to be shot partially in India, with pre-production scheduled to begin in January 2006.[12]Colin Farrell and Mel Gibson were at one stage attached to the project. Heath Ledger was set to play the role of Mr. O'Brien, but dropped out (due to recurring sicknesses) a month before his death in early 2008.[13]

In an October 2008 interview Jack Fisk, a longtime Malick collaborator, suggested that the director was attempting something radical.[14] He also implied that details of the film were a close secret.[15] In March 2009, visual effects artist Mike Fink revealed to Empire magazine that he was working on scenes of prehistoric Earth for the film.[16] The similarity of the scenes Fink describes to descriptions of a hugely ambiguous project entitled Q that Malick worked on soon after Days of Heaven has led to speculation that The Tree of Life is a resurrection of that abandoned project.[17]


Principal photography began in Texas in 2008.[18] Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki returned to work with Malick after collaborating with him on The New World. Locations included Smithville, Houston, Matagorda,[19]Bastrop, Austin,[20]Dallas,[21] and Malick's hometown of Waco.[22]

The namesake of the film is a large live oak tree that was excavated from a property a few miles outside Smithville. The 65,000-pound tree and root ball were trucked into Smithville and replanted.[23][24][25]

Visual effects[edit]

After nearly thirty years away from Hollywood, famed special effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull contributed to the visual effects work on The Tree of Life. Malick, a friend of Trumbull, approached him about the effects work and mentioned that he did not like the look of computer-generated imagery. Trumbull asked Malick, "Why not do it the old way? The way we did it in 2001?"[26]

Working with visual effects supervisor Dan Glass, Trumbull used a variety of materials for the creation of the universe sequence. "We worked with chemicals, paint, fluorescent dyes, smoke, liquids, CO2, flares, spin dishes, fluid dynamics, lighting and high speed photography to see how effective they might be," said Trumbull. "It was a free-wheeling opportunity to explore, something that I have found extraordinarily hard to get in the movie business. Terry didn't have any preconceived ideas of what something should look like. We did things like pour milk through a funnel into a narrow trough and shoot it with a high-speed camera and folded lens, lighting it carefully and using a frame rate that would give the right kind of flow characteristics to look cosmic, galactic, huge and epic."[27] The team also included Double Negative in London. Fluid-based effects were developed by Peter and Chris Parks, who had previously worked on similar effects for The Fountain.[28]

A column in The New Yorker noted that the film credited Thomas Wilfred’s lumia composition Opus 161, and that this was the source of the "shifting flame of red-yellow light" at the beginning and the end.[29]


In March 2009, Empire magazine's website quoted visual effects supervisor Mike Fink as saying that a version of the film will be released for IMAX cinemas along with two versions for traditional cinemas.[16] The IMAX film has been revealed to be Voyage of Time, a documentary expanding on the "history of the universe" scenes in The Tree of Life, which the producers decided to focus on releasing at a later date so as not to cannibalize its release.[30] It is set to be released by Broad Green Pictures.[31]

Delays and distribution problems[edit]

By May 2009, The Tree of Life had been sold to a number of international distributors, including Europacorp in France, TriPictures in Spain, and Icon in the UK and Australia,[32] but lacked a US distributor. In August 2009, it was announced that the film would be released in the US through Apparition, a new distributor founded by River Road Entertainment head Bill Pohlad and former Picturehouse chief Bob Berney.[33] A tentative date of December 25, 2009 was announced, but the film was not completed in time.[34] Organisers of the Cannes Film Festival made negotiations to secure a premiere at Cannes 2010, resulting in Malick sending an early version of the film to Thierry Fremaux and the Cannes selection committee.[35] Though Fremaux warmly received the cut and was eager to screen the film at his festival,[35] Malick ultimately told him that he felt the film was not ready.[36] On the eve of the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, Berney suddenly announced his departure from Apparition, leaving the company's future uncertain.[37] Pohlad decided to keep The Tree of Life at Apparition, and after significant restructuring, hired Tom Ortenberg to act as a consultant on its release. A tentative plan was made to release it in late 2010, in time for awards consideration.[38] Ultimately, Pohlad decided to close Apparition and sell rights to the film.[39] Private screenings of the film to interested parties Fox Searchlight Pictures and Sony Pictures Classics took place at the 2010 Telluride Film Festival.[40] On September 9, Fox Searchlight announced their acquisition of the film from Pohlad's River Road Entertainment.[41] The film opened in limited release in the United States on May 27, 2011.[42]

On March 28, 2011, UK magazine Empire reported that UK distributor Icon Entertainment was planning to release the film on May 4, 2011. This would make the UK the first region in the world to see the film,[43] preempting the expected Cannes Film Festival premiere on May 11. This would disqualify the film from inclusion at Cannes.[44] As a result, a surge of interest in the story developed on international film news sites.[43] After film blogger Jeff Wells was told by a Fox Searchlight representative that this was "unlikely",[45] and Anne Thompson received similar word from Searchlight and outright denial from Summit,[46][47] Helen O'Hara from Empire received a confirmation from Icon that they intended to stick with the May 4 release.[43] On March 31, Jeff Wells was told by Jill Jones, Summit's senior VP of international marketing and publicity, that Icon has lost the right to distribute The Tree of Life in the UK, due to defaulting on its agreement, with the matter pending arbitration at a tribunal in Los Angeles.[48] On June 9, it was announced that The Tree of Life would be released in the UK on July 8, 2011, after Fox Searchlight Pictures picked up the UK rights from Icon.[49]

Home media[edit]

The Tree of Life was released on Blu-ray Disc in the United States and Canada on October 11, 2011; on January 24, 2012, there was a separate release of the DVD.[50]


The Tree of Life Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat was released in 2011 by Lakeshore Records. Although billed as the movie soundtrack, only a few minutes of the album's music are heard in the film.


Early reviews for The Tree of Life at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival were polarized. After being met with both boos[51] and applause[52] at its premiere at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, the film received mixed early reviews.[53][54] The film went on to be awarded the prestigious Palme d'Or. Two of the film's producers, Bill Pohlad and Sarah Green, accepted the prize on behalf of the reclusive Malick.[55]The Tree of Life is the first American film to win the Palme d'Or since Fahrenheit 9/11 in 2004.[55] The head of the jury, Robert De Niro, said it was difficult to choose a winner, but The Tree of Life "ultimately fit the bill".[55] De Niro explained, "It had the size, the importance, the intention, whatever you want to call it, that seemed to fit the prize."[55][56]

The film won the 2011 FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Big Prize for the Best Film Of the Year. The award was presented on September 16, during the opening ceremony of the 59th San Sebastián International Film Festival.[57] Malick released a statement of thanks for the award.[58] On November 28, it was announced that the film had won the Gotham Award for Best Feature, shared with Beginners.[59]

The Tree of Life has since garnered critical acclaim and holds an 84% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 257 reviews, with an average score of 8.1/10. The site's consensus is that "Terrence Malick's singularly deliberate style may prove unrewarding for some, but for patient viewers, Tree of Life is an emotional as well as visual treat."[60] At Metacritic which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 reviews from film critics, the film has a rating score of 85, based on 50 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[61]

Roger Ebert gave the film four stars of four and wrote, "The Tree of Life is a film of vast ambition and deep humility, attempting no less than to encompass all of existence and view it through the prism of a few infinitesimal lives. The only other film I've seen with this boldness of vision is Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and it lacked Malick's fierce evocation of human feeling. There were once several directors who yearned to make no less than a masterpiece, but now there are only a few. Malick has stayed true to that hope ever since his first feature in 1973."[62] The following year, Ebert gave The Tree of Life one of his 10 votes in Sight & Sound's 2012 critics' poll of the world's greatest films.[63] Anthony Lane of The New Yorker said a "seraphic strain" in Malick's work "hits a solipsistic high" in The Tree of Life. "While the result will sound to some like a prayer, others may find it increasingly lonely and locked, and may themselves pray for Ben Hecht or Billy Wilder to rise from the dead and attack Malick’s script with a quiver of poisonous wisecracks," the magazine's reviewer said.[64]

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian awarded it five stars and lauded it as an "unashamedly epic reflection on love and loss" and a "mad and magnificent film."[65]Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter states "Brandishing an ambition it's likely no film, including this one, could entirely fulfill, The Tree of Life is nonetheless a singular work, an impressionistic metaphysical inquiry into mankind's place in the grand scheme of things that releases waves of insights amidst its narrative imprecisions."[66] Justin Chang of Variety states the film "represents something extraordinary" and "is in many ways his simplest yet most challenging work, a transfixing odyssey through time and memory that melds a young boy's 1950s upbringing with a magisterial rumination on the Earth's origins."[67]Peter Travers of Rolling Stone states "Shot with a poet's eye, Malick's film is a groundbreaker, a personal vision that dares to reach for the stars."[68]A. O. Scott of The New York Times gave the film much praise and stated, "The sheer beauty of this film is almost overwhelming, but as with other works of religiously minded art, its aesthetic glories are tethered to a humble and exalted purpose, which is to shine the light of the sacred on secular reality". Total Film gave the film a five-star review (denoting 'outstanding'): "The Tree of Life is beautiful. Ridiculously, rapturously beautiful. You could press 'pause' at any second and hang the frame on your wall."[69]Richard Corliss of Time named it one of the Top 10 Best Movies of 2011.[70]

Some religious reviewers welcomed the spiritual themes of the film.[71][72][73][74] For instance, Catholic author and now auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles Fr. Robert Barron, reviewing The Tree of Life for a Chicago Tribune blog, noted that "in the play of good and evil, in the tension between nature and grace, God is up to something beautiful, though we are unable to grasp it totally...“Tree of Life” is communicating this same difficult but vital lesson."[75] Rabbi David Wolpe says "that Terrence Malick's new film "Tree of Life" opens with a quotation from Job. That quotation holds the key to the film and in some sense, the key to our attitude toward life."[76]

Not all reviewers were positive. Sukhdev Sandhu, chief film critic of The Daily Telegraph describes the movie as "self-absorbed," and "achingly slow, almost buckling under the weight of its swoony poetry."[77] Likewise, Stephanie Zacharek of Movieline praised the technical aspects of the film, such as the "gorgeous photography", but nonetheless criticized it as "a gargantuan work of pretension and cleverly concealed self-absorption."[78] Lee Marshall of Screen Daily referred to the film as "a cinematic credo about spiritual transcendence which, while often shot through with poetic yearning, preaches too directly to its audience."[79] Filmmaker David Lynch said that, while he liked Malick's previous works, The Tree of Life "was not his cup of tea".[80] In 2016, John Patterson of The Guardian complained of the meager impression that the film left on him, opining that "much of it simply evaporates before your eyes."[81]

Sean Penn has said, "The screenplay is the most magnificent one that I've ever read but I couldn't find that same emotion on screen. ... A clearer and more conventional narrative would have helped the film without, in my opinion, lessening its beauty and its impact."[82] He further clarified his reservations about the film by adding, "But it's a film I recommend, as long as you go in without any preconceived ideas. It's up to each person to find their own personal, emotional or spiritual connection to it. Those that do generally emerge very moved."[83]

The film appeared on over 70 critics' year-end top ten lists, including 15 first-place rankings.[84]The Tree of Life was voted best film of 2011 in the annual Sight & Sound critic poll, earning one and a half times as many votes as runner up A Separation.[85] The film also topped the critics poll of best released film of 2011 by Film Comment,[86] and the indieWire annual critics survey for 2011,[87] as well as The Village Voice/LA Weekly Film Poll 2011.[88]. In France Les Cahiers du cinéma placed it second equal with The Strange Case of Angelica in the 2011 Top Ten chart [89].

In 2012, 16 critics, including Roger Ebert, included it as one of their 10 votes for Sight & Sound; this placed it at #102 in the final list (making it the fourth film on the list which had been released since the year 2000, behind Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love, Edward Yang's Yi Yi, and David Lynch's Mulholland Drive). The film also received five votes in the directors' poll (placing it at #132).[6]

In 2015, Bradshaw named the film one of the top 50 films of the decade so far by The Guardian.[90]

The Tree of Life ranked seventh on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)'s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century in August, 2016.[91] The list was compiled by polling 177 film critics from around the world.


Main article: List of accolades received by The Tree of Life (film)


  1. ^"THE TREE OF LIFE (12)". British Board of Film Classification. June 10, 2011. Retrieved June 1, 2013. 
  2. ^"The Tree of Life". The Numbers. 
  3. ^"The Tree of Life (2011)". Box Office Mojo. October 27, 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  4. ^"Film Critic Top 10 Lists - Best of 2011". Metacritic. Retrieved 2014-06-03. 
  5. ^"Best of 2011". CriticsTop10. Retrieved December 1, 2016. 
  6. ^ ab"The Tree of Life (2010) | BFI". Retrieved June 3, 2014. 
  7. ^"The 100 greatest American films". BBC. July 20, 2015. Retrieved February 17, 2017. 
  8. ^Desowitz, Bill (June 1, 2011). "Giving VFX Birth to Tree of Life". Animation World Network. Retrieved November 16, 2011. 
  9. ^Abele, Robert (September 9, 2009). "Pohlad holds out hope". Variety. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  10. ^ abZeitchik, Steven; John Horn (January 24, 2012). "Oscars 2012: How will 'Tree of Life' be represented?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 26, 2012.  
  11. ^ ab"The Tree of Life: A Conversation With Producer Dede Gardner". October 13, 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  12. ^Bhushan, Nyay (August 31, 2005). "Percept finds 'Life' with Malick feature". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on May 3, 2008. Retrieved March 29, 2008. 
  13. ^Naval-Shetye, Aakanksha (May 17, 2006). "Guess who's coming to town!". Times of India. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  14. ^"Arrival in The New World: Extended Cut". October 29, 2008. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  15. ^Lim, Dennis (January 6, 2008). "If You Need a Past, He's the Guy to Build It". The New York Times. 
  16. ^ abExclusive: Malick's Tree Of Life. Empire. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  17. ^Terrence Malick's THE TREE OF LIFE To Go IMAX? With Dinosaurs?,, March 2, 2009
  18. ^McNary, Dave (April 15, 2008). "Chastain to star opposite Pitt in 'Tree'". Variety. Retrieved April 19, 2008. 
  19. ^Garcia, Chris (March 25, 2008). "Gracia, Chris. "'Tree of Life' uprooted, briefly". ''''". Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  20. ^"The Tree of Life (2011)". IMDb. Retrieved January 12, 2015. 
  21. ^Wilonsky, Robert (December 16, 2010). "Terrence Malick Shot Tree of Life All Over Texas. Including, Turns Out, in Downtown". Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  22. ^"Ingram, Emily. "Part of downtown Waco shut down for film shoot".". Retrieved January 26, 2012. [dead link]
  23. ^Hagerty, Terry. "Oak in 'Tree of Life' moved to downtown Smithville". The Bastrop Advertiser, February 9, 2008, pp 1A, 2A.
  24. ^Tree of Life. February 16, 2008. 
  25. ^Planting the Tree of Life. February 17, 2008. 
  26. ^Keegan, Rebecca (April 25, 2010). "TCM Festival: Hollywood Visionary Douglas Trumbull Working on Terrence Malick Movie". Vanity Fair. 
  27. ^Hart, Hugh (June 17, 2011). "Video: Tree of Life Visualizes the Cosmos Without CGI". Wired. 
  28. ^"Animation World Network: Giving VFX Birth to Tree of Life". 
  29. ^Zinman, Gregory (2011-06-27). "Lumia: Thomas Wilfred's Opus 161 (1965-66)". The New Yorker. New York, NY: Condé Nast. Retrieved 2015-10-11. 
  30. ^Horn, John (May 25, 2011). "Terrence Malick looks to IMAX to extend 'Tree of Life' explorations". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 28, 2011. 
  31. ^Fleming Jr, Mike (February 3, 2015). "IMAX, Broad Green Sign On As Distribs Of Terrence Malick's 'Voyage Of Time'". Retrieved April 10, 2016. 
  32. ^"TriPictures picks up Summit's Tree of Life, Letters to Juliet". Screen Daily. May 22, 2009. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  33. ^Fleming, Michael (August 6, 2009). "Pohlad, Berney unveil Apparition". Variety. 
  34. ^Thompson, Anne (October 15, 2009). "Tree of Life Will Not Open in 2009". Indiewire. 
  35. ^ abThompson, Anne (April 20, 2010). "Cannes Updates: Fortnight, Critics Week, Carlos, Tree of Life". Indiewire. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  36. ^Davis, Edward (April 15, 2010). "Don't Get Those 'Tree of Life' Hopes Up for Cannes 2010". The Playlist. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  37. ^Fleming, Michael (May 11, 2009). "Berney Exit Blindsides Apparition". Deadline. 
  38. ^Fleming, Mike (June 30, 2010). "Apparition Restructures With 60% Staff Cut". Deadline. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  39. ^Fleming, Michael (September 7, 2010). "Apparition Cuts Staff, Nears 'Tree of Life' Distribution Deal". Deadline. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  40. ^Thompson, Anne (September 13, 2010). "Waiting for Malick: Which Film Fest Will Debut Tree of Life?". Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  41. ^"Announced: Fox Searchlight Acquires Terrence Malick's TREE OF LIFE". Fox Searchlight Pictures. September 9, 2010. Retrieved September 9, 2010. 
  42. ^Jagernauth, Kevin (October 22, 2010). "'The Tree Of Life' Gets May 27, 2011 Release Date". indieWire. Retrieved October 22, 2010. 
  43. ^ abcO'Hara, Helen (March 28, 2011). "The Tree of Life has A UK Release Date". Empire. Retrieved April 2, 2011. 
  44. ^"Rules & Regulations 2011". Retrieved April 2, 2011. 
  45. ^Wells, Jeff (March 28, 2011). "UK Tree of Life Release: Shocker or Snafu?". Hollywood Elsewhere. Retrieved April 2, 2011. 
  46. ^Thompson, Anne (March 28, 2011). "Tree of Life Will Not Open in the U.K. Before Cannes After All, Gets New Poster". Indiewire. Retrieved April 2, 2011. 
  47. ^Thompson, Anne (March 31, 2011). "Summit Takes Icon UK to a Los Angeles Arbitration Tribunal Over Tree of Life". Indiewire. Retrieved April 2, 2011. 
  48. ^Wells, Jeff (March 28, 2011). "Icon Kicked to Curb". Hollywood Elsewhere. Retrieved April 2, 2011. 
  49. ^"New Tree Of Life Featurette Online and finally gets a UK release date". Empire. June 9, 2011. 
  50. ^

Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *