Friday, August 05, 2011

the tree of life… and into the wild

Moira+I (+Gareth, Iona+Eilidh) went to the Watershed yesterday to see Malick’s long-awaited latest film. I knew from reactions of other friends who’d seen it that it would be a film to ponder…. and I’m certainly still pondering!
The film opens 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?" and I think this fittingly set the scene for how Malick wanted us to see the film: perhaps a combination of a prayer, a poem, a family drama and an exploration of humanity, faith and life itself. At times (particularly in sequences at the beginning and end), it felt like watching “2001, A Space Odyssey".
The film follows the story of a mid-western family in the 1950s and, in particular, the life journey of the eldest son: the complicated relationship with his father (played by Brad Pitt)(who saw the survival of the fittest as the key to success in life) and that of his long-suffering mother (whose life encapsulated selflessness and sacrifice)… culminating with him, as a disillusioned adult (on the verge of a break-down?), trying to find answers to the origins and meaning of life. The film wrestles with the following premise: “all of creation can be told in the story of one family and one family fits into the story of all of creation". The theme is telegraphed through the interior thoughts of the mother: “There are two ways in life, the way of nature and the way of grace. You have two choices which to follow.”
The father has some form of redemption in the end as we hear his own inner journey of repentance after one of the sons dies and he loses his job. “I wanted to be loved because I was great. I’m nothing. I dishonoured the glory. I am a foolish man.” Meanwhile, tellingly, the mother ponders, “The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by. Do good, wonder, hope.”
It’s a stunningly beautiful film in terms of photographic and musical imagery and one that I will certainly watch again in due course. I got the impression that the 67 year-old Malick was reflecting on his own life – its purpose, its meaning, its regrets and its joys – or, at least, trying to tell us the importance of doing so. No doubt, over the coming days, I’ll continue to ponder aspects of the film… and, maybe, I’ll draw some different conclusions.

Hannah had recently seen “Into The Wild” and suggested that I might like it (which I did). Strangely (and these coincidences seem to have happened an awful lot recently – perhaps something to do with my own changing lifestyle?), I found that the film had many similarities with “The Tree of Life”.
Sean Penn’s 2007 film (note: Penn just happens to have played the disillusioned adult son in “The Tree of Life”!) is a true story about a bright young college graduate, Christopher McCandless, who abandoned all his possessions and hiked off into the wilderness in search of a radical re-engagement with nature, unsullied by money or the career rat-race. In 1992, at the age of 24, McCandless was found dead in the Alaskan backwoods in an abandoned bus he was using as a rough-and-ready bivouac. His life story and passion for the natural world of North America was reconstructed from his journals. It includes the following quotes – which I think could easily have been included in “The Tree of Life”:
“Happiness is only real when shared”.
“The core of mans' spirit comes from new experiences”.

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