Monday, December 26, 2011

The Tree of Life

What I loved about The Tree of Life was the headlong rush of images at times. Terrence Malick & Emmnauel Lubezki's probing camera, looking deep into, around, and through space and time to find a way to make sense and meaning of everything (in a sense, literally).

The discussion around the movie tends to center on its theology, or perhaps, teleology. If  you haven't seen it, the movie features a 20 minute passage near the beginning that starts with the big bang and shows the process of formation of the cosmos, the planet earth, and the beginnings of life from amoeba to aquatic creatures crawling out of the sea to dinosaurs and on to humankind. The argument is whether the guiding force in evolution/nature is grace or random chance/chaos. This is certainly a valid argument, but I think Malick is less interested in this argument, than showing you that whatever the animating force, he wants you to see that life is indeed progressing in a forwardly direction; rushing forward, in fact, which circles us back around to what I loved about the movie: the images. The images of the mother at play with her children in and around the house in Waco. The images of a domineering father struggling to hold his family together. The cold reflective surfaces of the skyscrapers of Downtown Dallas. The waystation at the end of life on a beach where loved ones who've passed away can be reunited. Sartre said "Hell is other people." This film says so is heaven.

The scope here is certainly ambitious. The movie tells the story of existence in the universe through the frame of one person/family. Your one life has Meaning in the grand sweep of EVERYTHING because you were here at all, and if you hadn't been here life, quite simply (simply!) would have been infinitely, and infinitismally, different.

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