I remember seeing Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey a couple of years ago and having this reaction. Mr. Kubrick is seen by most in the film industry as a genius. I don't believe I'm intellectually qualified to speak to that. I've seen a number of his films and while I feel that all of them are powerful pieces of visual art, the jury's still out on how I feel about his ability as a storyteller. The reason I mention Kubrick is because I recently saw the movie The Tree of Life. This is a film written and directed by Terrence Malick. As I was watching The Tree of Life I thought to myself, "This reminds me of a Kubrick film." (After seeing the film I read Roger Ebert's review on it and interestingly enough he also mentions Kubrick) Ok, big setup. So, what am I getting at? After having seen The Tree of Life and leaving the theater feeling as if I'd just been completely overloaded with every stimuli I could possibly imagine, I had to concede that it didn't matter how many times I saw this film, it would remain absolutely out of my realm of interpretation. Did I have some strong emotional reactions to it? Certainly. Will I every fully understand the intention of the writer/director? I highly doubt it.
This leads me to believe that there are those few individuals -- those few -- artistically, intellectually, emotionally, sensitive people, who will always be able to appreciate the Kubrick's, Malick's, Lynch's, von Trier's, etc. and actually be able to (at least according to them) connect with the story that's being told while the rest of us think our niece's and nephew's could probably have come up with something at least as good if not better. How do I come to this conclusion? Because as of the time of this writing The Tree of Life is getting an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. The critics are eating this film up. They love it! Now, some people might just chalk that up to the stigma that film critics are pretentious and only enjoy movies with subtitles. However, they see more movies in a year than the average person probably sees in their lifetime. These are the large majority of 'the few'. These are professional movie watchers.
This post has largely been a rambling of thoughts as they spill out of my head. I think that if I were to boil it down it comes to this: I can have my opinion about wether or not a story that's told is effective. I will form this opinion based on wether that story affected ME in a certain way. However, I can't say that a story is ineffective to someone who was moved by it. I may never fully understand all of the storytelling devices thrown at me in The Tree of Life and therefore will probably not have it stick with me as an impacting story. But there are a lot of people out there who will and I can't tell them that their experience isn't valid because I didn't get it.