in defense of The Tree of Life

29 Sep

The Point, a high-brow journal of literature and politics based here in Chicago, makes a case for why The Tree of Life is less self-indulgent than a lot of people thought.

The Tree of Life invites accusations of pretentiousness, but though many of us may scoff at one man’s presumption to link his own biography to the origins of life, Malick is in fact calling out for us to do the same, and so to wonder about our Being, rather than just being-in-the-world, where we are lulled into sleep by day-to-day work and momentary amusements. The Tree of Life is Malick’s “Song of Myself,” recalling Whitman: “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, / And what I assume you shall assume, / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

It was interesting to find out too that the film is autobiographical in certain details. Malick had a brother, Larry, who killed himself after intentionally breaking both his hands. I feel as if details like this add weight to the incantations uttered by various characters in the movie—questions, prayers, recollections of memories. Later, the author skims over a thought before quickly moving on, but I lingered over it. The statement, for me, is at the crux of Malick’s filmmaking.

Few films awe as much.

Read as a statement about the audience, this doesn’t say a lot. But read as a statement about the film itself, that the movie is in awe of the world, changes it completely.

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