This movie makes you see the world anew. It’s rampant with beauty. For all the talk of non-linear narrative and theological mystery, The Tree of Life is a balm for the senses; it brings peace to you. As an enquiry into grace, it evokes the quality of grace perfectly. The smallest pleasures of human life are held in equal thrall with the grand progressions of the universe. You can’t help feeling staggered by its scope. But unlike the chill of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, this film doesn’t lose its human perspective by contemplating infinity; rather, like a wildlife film, it watches human beings with amazement. You can recognise the family at the centre of this film. The wonder is that for years, we walk around blindfolded.
Stanley Kubrick once said The Shining was an optimistic story because “anything that says there’s anything after death is ultimately an optimistic story.” Although Gaspar Noe wants you to feel mind-raped by Enter the Void, I’d say his movie has a sentimental heart. For all the sex, and the drug-taking, this story – of a doting soul circling ’round Tokyo – is pretty mushy when you peer through the sleaze. To quote from St Paul, “Where, O death, is your sting?”…once you admit that there’s an afterlife? All the obscenity in the world can’t match the horror of oblivion. So, if you’re thinking you’re too wussy to Enter the Void: rest easy. Your deepest fears aren’t realized here (unless you have a fear of gratuitous nudity).
‘Voyeurs welcome’ went the advertising campaign. It wasn’t a spoken agreement. It was a look. In the theatrical trailer for Eyes Wide Shut, the defining image is of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, naked, making-out in front of a mirror. Tom has his eyes closed to what he’s doing. He can’t see himself in heat. But Nicole’s eyes are open, she’s watching herself in that mirror, and her look is fearful, hunted. Tom’s hand is round her throat. It’s as if she sees his brute desire in that mirror. As much as she enjoys it – and, rest assured, she does enjoy it too – catching desire is dangerous. He’s in the grip of lust: right where we are. By looking in the mirror, Nicole dares us to admit: we want to see. She snares the voyeur.