Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Overstreet

The Tree of Life (2011)

685 posts in this topic

But why should we insist that sin introduced death to the HUMAN experience, specifically?

Because that's what the protology of Genesis suggests.

I don't see how we can single humans out or separate them from the rest of this creative process, especially when St. Paul ties the redemption of humanity to the redemption of creation as a whole ("We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time", etc.).

I think we need to be careful in how we understand Paul's idea of creation being subjected to frustration. And humans were somewhat separated from the rest of the creative process as soon as God singled them for the imago Dei and put them in the very special area of Eden.

: . . . he didn't seem to believe in unique human beings (he describes humanity as being part of an evolutionary continuum, and in the script, actually gives us a glimpse of humanity's evolutionary future).

Oh, THAT sounds interesting. Tell us more!

I'll get back to this one in a bit.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ryan H. wrote:

: And humans were somewhat separated from the rest of the creative process as soon as God singled them for the imago Dei and put them in the very special area of Eden.

If you take Genesis 2-3 to be a literal description of historical events, yes. And if you don't? If you believe, as most people with a passing knowledge of the science do, that humans evolved from other species, and that our very proclivity for violence enabled the development of our brains (which led to higher forms of intelligence and consciousness which, themselves, enabled us to exhibit the imago Dei)?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Peter T Chattaway said:

But why should we insist that sin introduced death to the HUMAN experience, specifically? Once we accept that plants and animals were dying -- both individually and as species --

for millions of years prior to the existence of humans, we are faced with the question of how death fits into Creation, period. I don't see how we can single humans out or separate

them from the rest of this creative process, especially when St. Paul ties the redemption of humanity to the redemption of creation as a whole ("We know that the whole creation

has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time", etc.).

I'm not quite sure what your saying here? Are you suggesting that because there would have been death in the creation around Adam and Eve in Eden that Adam and Eve would have been

dying even without sin? If so I've heard that theory before, and I suppose it could be at least somewhat plausible. The theory goes that if they had of ate of the fruit from the tree of life

instead of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they would have lost their already present death state. Likewise in the City of God in Revelation, the tree exists.

Nevertheless my Concordant Bibles translation of Romans 5: 12 reads. "Therefore even as through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin death, and thus death passed through into

all mankind, on which all sinned"

So this would imply that death came into humanity after the fall.

This I find very interesting in light of the film. The Tree of Life seems to wrestle with the Augustinian concept of nature, in the idea that our nature might be in direct opposition to grace.

Here is a snippet from one of my readings.

There was a poor translation of the Greek into the Latin Vulgate by Augustine’s colleague, Jerome. That passage is Romans 5:12, which says “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men on which all men sinned”. The Latin Vulgate renders this passage differently as “because of Adam in whom all have sinned” – the Latin, “in quo omnes peccaverunt”, is a poor translation of the Greek, ‘eph' O pantes emarton’.

With this some have moved away from or rejected Augustine's understanding of original sin (Orthodoxy always has,,,, right?)

Without Augustine's understanding of the fall then the dynamics change and Romans might be seen through a bit different lense. That being the Law of sin and death (Romans 8:3), instead of an inherited sin nature in Adam.

This of course puts the idea of death coming into humanity through Adams fall more into the forefront.

For instance Romans 7:13 "Sin is producing death to me.......... yet I am fleshly having been disposed of under sin".

Under the Augustinian interpretation (which we have largely inherited, in the West at least) having been disposed of under sin would be interpreted as to do with (at least in part)

our inherited sin nature,

But it has also been interpreted as the vicious cycle of the law of sin and death. In Adam we have inherited death, so we go into the world craving life..... because of demonic lies and the world system we all to often are fooled into going to the wrong places in an attempt to find what our flesh thinks is life (even if it is false).... such as drugs.......what have you. This is of course rebellion against God.

But then the Law of Sin and death comes into play again. Our sinful attempts at finding life actually lead to more death (the wages of sin is death)...... and so we crave more life, and go to sinful things in order to find it. This of course leads to addiction and habitually sinful behavior.

Some would interpret this habitual behaviour as what Paul calls in Romans our "sin nature", interpreting the sin nature not as something we are born with, but as something we develop, something habitual.

Therefore this could fit with what you said about some traditions having methods to overcome our habitual behaviour. Mild forms of asceticism could help to tame the fleshes addictions. But with the above understanding an obvious way to help overcome the Law of Sin and death and our addictions, is to do life giving things. Some believe that this is one of the obvious benefits of baptism and the eucharist. In this understanding it gives life to us and helps us to overcome sin. But others (some branches of Protestantism) view these only as an ordinance. Could it be argued that the ordinance view of the "sacraments" has been somehow a result Augustine's understandings?

The reason I went into this is because it does bring up questions and thoughts into the movie. The film questions human nature (or maybe even desires to tell us about human nature) but I would think that what it is questioning or speaking of, is the Augustinian view of humanity, which is of course, the most prominent view in Western Christianity having I suspect influenced Catholicism and most (all?) of the Protestant denominations to some degree.

But if one was to look at life through another lense there isn't as much of a potential difference between nature and true goodness. I mean one could read the film as implying that the way of human nature is purely destructive, but even a film that would be arguing this point, if was depicting characters that are true to humanity, would show aspects of human nature that are not destructive. I mean.... sure the mother represented the way of grace..... but she also acted in ways that were often consistent to motherhood in the real world. Ways that were loving and nurturing and truly selfless, which is of course Christlike. Mothers have been acting this way for all of time....... it would seem obvious that there is a love written into humanity where a healthy heart is selflessly dedicated to it's children.

So then the question arises.... is this way of grace in motherhood something that God is causing. But if God is causing this "grace" to happen in a mother who isn't a Christian...... then what about God's grace through faith in Christ alone? Is this diminishing the need for Christ?

As well, there is also another question which has often been floated around. If God is overcoming her bad nature to cause this grace, then why doesn't he overcome the nature of all the terrible mothers who are out there? Or for that matter overcome Jack's fathers nature and cause him to quit acting like such a selfish dinglefritz.

A film like this leans towards a certain view of humanity, but yet if it is fairly true to humanity, raises a lot of questions about that view.

Edited by Attica

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ryan H. wrote:

: And humans were somewhat separated from the rest of the creative process as soon as God singled them for the imago Dei and put them in the very special area of Eden.

If you take Genesis 2-3 to be a literal description of historical events, yes. And if you don't? If you believe, as most people with a passing knowledge of the science do, that humans evolved from other species, and that our very proclivity for violence enabled the development of our brains (which led to higher forms of intelligence and consciousness which, themselves, enabled us to exhibit the imago Dei)?

Historical or not, the protology of Genesis 2-3 suggests ideas about the human relationship to the rest of the natural order and death that I don't think can be so easily brushed aside, even if we do accept some form of the narrative of evolution.

Edited by Ryan H.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My friend Esther's thoughts about which son dies. She's seen Tree of Life twice, BTW.

Spoilers throughout.

Esther: it was the one that played the guitar

who was the youngest, I think

me: how do you know that?

9:43 AM Esther: when she first receives the news, it pans his room and the guitar is there...also, most of the most poignant relationship is between the oldest and youngest son

and the trust and breaking thereof that was referred to several times throughout the movie

plus he was the one that was so very different from his two brothers

9:44 AM and there was this constant questioning of, if anybody had to die, why was it him, he was so unworthy of death

9:45 AM

he took such deep delight/care/deliberation in life...he even refused to partake in typical boyish destruction (fights, killing the frog with the rocket, etc)...instead he created music and beauty and truth...but not like his father created music. He wasn't selfish in his creating....

me: he's [the middle son] closer with Jack, so I thought it made more sense that grown-up Jack was still so haunted by it

9:49 AM Esther: No, I think it was the juxtaposition of Jacks' perception of who he was compared to who his youngest brother was...there was this parallel between Jack and his dad compared with the youngest and his mother...when the youngest died, it was (in a weird way) like his mom had died even though he wished for his dad to die

Jack thought his dad deserved death (and so, in a way, did he) but if anybody deserved life, it was his mother...and consequently his youngest brother

9:50 AM

Dang, that movie is chalk-full of parallels and symbolism

I came away from the film with the impression that the boy-who-would-be-Sean-Penn and the middle brother are the only ones that matter. Isn't the middle son the musical one? Does the youngest son ever do or say anything at all? I spent the latter half of the film wondering why Malick bothered to include a third brother at all — his obscurity seems so complete as to border on intentional. In retrospect, it's a good bet he's a victim of Malick's notorious editorial process.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nicholas said: ": Furthermore, what is your interpretation of the last three shots?"

Peter said: "I only remember the very last shot, of the bridge (which, on a "nature" vs. "grace" spectrum, would be ... I'm not sure where; it's clearly not a natural formation, but we're not used to thinking of giant structures like that as expressions of grace, per se; if anything, it's an expression of will). Was the sunflower shot one of the other two shots?"

I think we're using the terms "nature" and "grace" in different ways.

When I use the term "grace" in relation to this film, I simply mean "gift," and in another sense "givenness" as it relates to a person living the "way of grace." So, sure, you can look at this huge way of passage (the large bridge) and say that it symbolizes something like "will", but the point is that the bridge emphasizes a sense of passage provided, and is very much a sense of grace embodied on earth. And remember: even the things we create are created from nature's materials - so it matters little to me whether it was "naturally formed." It matters more what we are making of this life - what we are cultivating, and what is being cultivated, of ourselves. Yes, one of the last three shots, then, is also the sunflower shot, but then the sky reflected in the skyscraper. All three of these shots follow Jack's reconciliatory grin. Jack's "fall from grace" has been reconciled: he has found his way back home - returned to the way of grace that his mother exemplified and he had lost.

All of this most recent discussion signals to me that one of the difficulties we're seeking to address is in what sense Malick connects "human nature" with "the natural world" or "evolution." I'm not quite sure. But I do think by "the way of nature," he means something like "self-absorption" or radical self-sufficiency. And by "the way of grace," he means living the way of gift - that is, graciously, forgiving others, living as a creature in line with the way of the Creator, et al. To fall from grace is to fall into self-centeredness, or, the ultimate sin of self-exalting pride. To then be reconciled is not to cease being an embodied self, or to conquer materiality - it is to be a living embodiment of one's essential self, a fully-flourishing godly creature.

http://www.christandpopculture.com/featured/nostalgia-for-the-absolute-in-terrence-malicks-the-tree-of-life/

Attica said: "Finally got to reading your review and thought that it was great. I like that this film is raising up different thoughts to reflect on.

I'm going to ponder on your review some.

Just for the record..... I had understood what you meant by the shadowside. Some of my comments, like in my last post, were not intended to be argument....... but

instead speculation."

Thanks, Attica. Glad you enjoyed it and that it gave you more food for thought. And I wondered about the intention of your post, so thanks for the clarification. I do enjoy the speculation, though, for sure!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rather than "in line with the designations of the Creator" - it might be better to say "in harmony with."

And the more I think about it, the more I think that we really do get a sense that Jack has had a "fall" or that he is "lost." But these things are given the profundity they deserve; they are not depicted easily in the way that evangelicals tend to use the terms pejoratively. No, there is a real sense in which Jack is disoriented. He has lost his way. And what's also striking as I think about this binary of "home" and being "lost", is the imagery in the film of the sunken home and the boy swimming away from it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jeffrey Wells floated the rumour earlier today -- which he heard from "a trusted source" -- that "Sean Penn's part in The Tree of Life, which is barely there with maybe ten lines of dialogue, if that, was fairly substantial in earlier cuts, but like Adrien Brody's character in The Thin Red Line, it was gradually cut down to nothing." He goes on to suggest that this may be partly why Penn didn't take part in the Tree of Life press conference even though he's at Cannes.

Sean Penn speaks to Le Figaro, as translated via Jeffrey Wells:

"I didn't at all find on the screen the emotion of the script, which is the most magnificent one that I've ever read," Penn said. "A clearer and more conventional narrative would have helped the film without, in my opinion, lessening its beauty and its impact. Frankly, I'm still trying to figure out what I'm doing there and what I was supposed to add in that context! What's more, Terry himself never managed to explain it to me clearly."

Interesting, given that this was not Penn's first experience working with Malick; that would be The Thin Red Line.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Note: Jeffrey Wells (who describes Penn's reaction as a "What the eff?") and In Contention (which characterizes it as a "bitch-slap" to the movie) overlook what *else* Penn said in that interview:

But it’s a film I recommend, as long as you go in without any preconceived ideas. It’s up to each person to find their own personal, emotional or spiritual connection to it. Those that do generally emerge very moved.

What the eff, indeed. If that's a bitch-slap, then...

Edited by Overstreet

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rather than "in line with the designations of the Creator" - it might be better to say "in harmony with."

And the more I think about it, the more I think that we really do get a sense that Jack has had a "fall" or that he is "lost."

Indeed. There absolutely is the sense that he is lost.

As well "In harmony with" lines up just fine with my understanding.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sean Penn said:

: But it’s a film I recommend, as long as you go in without any preconceived ideas. It’s up to each person to find their own personal, emotional or spiritual connection to it. Those that do generally emerge very moved.

That's a very equivocal statement, coming right after Penn's remark that he "didn't at all find on the screen the emotion of the script". So it sounds like Penn is basically saying that some people will find an emotional connection to the film but he, himself, did not.

When Matt Zoller Seitz linked to this interview at Facebook yesterday, one of his friends commented: "Ah...the second part of that is very hazy, 'I'm told some people like it'-style diplomacy, delivered, it seems to me, after Penn decided he should have bitten his tongue." I don't think I'd go quite THAT far, since Penn doesn't strike me as the sort of person who cares about "diplomacy" per se, but anyhoo, the fact remains that even many of those who LIKE the film think the Sean Penn sequences are its weakest part, and Penn, if nothing else, apparently agrees with them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Out on October 11.

tol_packshot.jpg

Edited by Overstreet

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cool, but the whole "no stand alone DVD will be released" marketing plan is starting to get more common and more annoying.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to say that I really have a hard time imagining this on a small screen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to say that I really have a hard time imagining this on a small screen.

Even so, Day One buy for me. October is taking ALL MY MONEY.

Edited by Scholar's Parrot

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow. I just realized that Malick totally ripped off Wim Wenders. What a copycat.

Warning: Spoilers!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxBu4_mnmFg

Edited by Overstreet

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've bolded the section of this review that worked better than caffeine to wake me up and get my adrenalin pumping this morning. Yeah, incredulity is an effective wake-up, if not a pleasant one.

Oh, this excerpt is from Charles Muedede's review of the new Tom Twyker film, in Seattle's free, weekly newspaper The Stranger:

Let's begin with the essence of this film: Two Berlin cultural workers, Hanna (Sophie Rois) and Simon (Sebastian Schipper), fall in love with a scientist (Devid Striesow), and in the process are transformed into the family of the future, the post-Freudian family, the family that has a new set of problems and values. This family doesn't care if you are gay or straight. Sex is just sex. This family is also thoroughly cosmopolitan and grounded by an urban/rational ethic that has naturalized public transportation, high-density environments, and the consumption of quality art, foods, and entertainment. Stephen J. Gould is the saint of this family.

Now recall how Tree of Life was about a sensitive boy dealing with his harsh father. The director of that awful film, Terrence Malick, only took us back into the cave of the Oedipal complex. Malick clearly thought that this muddy and emotional complex is the final meaning of human life. 3, directed by Tom Tykwer—he also directed Run Lola Run and The International—has none of this mythical nonsense. Tykwer knows, as the great dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson put it, "this is the age of reality, this is the age of science and [bio]technology." The problem for humans, then, is how to create or invent relationships that reflect our current, scientific reality.

Ahhhhh, Seattle.

Edited by Overstreet

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've bolded the section of this review that worked better than caffeine to wake me up and get my adrenalin pumping this morning. Yeah, incredulity is an effective wake-up, if not a pleasant one.

Oh, this excerpt is from Charles Muedede's review of the new Tom Twyker film, in Seattle's free, weekly newspaper The Stranger:

Let's begin with the essence of this film: Two Berlin cultural workers, Hanna (Sophie Rois) and Simon (Sebastian Schipper), fall in love with a scientist (Devid Striesow), and in the process are transformed into the family of the future, the post-Freudian family, the family that has a new set of problems and values. This family doesn't care if you are gay or straight. Sex is just sex. This family is also thoroughly cosmopolitan and grounded by an urban/rational ethic that has naturalized public transportation, high-density environments, and the consumption of quality art, foods, and entertainment. Stephen J. Gould is the saint of this family.

Now recall how Tree of Life was about a sensitive boy dealing with his harsh father. The director of that awful film, Terrence Malick, only took us back into the cave of the Oedipal complex. Malick clearly thought that this muddy and emotional complex is the final meaning of human life. 3, directed by Tom Tykwer—he also directed Run Lola Run and The International—has none of this mythical nonsense. Tykwer knows, as the great dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson put it, "this is the age of reality, this is the age of science and [bio]technology." The problem for humans, then, is how to create or invent relationships that reflect our current, scientific reality.

Ahhhhh, Seattle.

This guy should read Ken Morefield's essay on Tykwer in Vol. II of FAITH & SPIRITUALITY IN MASTERS OF WORLD CINEMA. Not sure he gets either Tykwer or "our current, scientific reality."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought Freudian psychology, with its Oedipal complexes etc., WAS supposed to be part of the great new scientific project that displaced earlier myths and spiritual systems etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Want to see it on big screen again? It'll be at Whitehead Film Festival in January.

Edited by Darrel Manson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Vic Sizemore's post on The Tree of Life is a wonderful addition the burgeoning stock of good writing about this film. It's up at Image today.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Storyboard artist Mark Bristol posted some deleted concepts to his website the other day, but has since taken them down. However, the eagle-eyed Malick fans at The Playlist captured a few before he did so, and apparently, at one point, the film was going to depict Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel and Seth at Lake Turkana in Kenya, i.e. the place that is regarded by modern anthropologists as the birthplace of humankind because of all the hominid fossils there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting stuff. Maybe we'll see it in the extended version?

Edited by Ryan H.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not that I have anything new to add after 33 pages of discussion/debate, but I'm just getting around to a second viewing on DVD and was wondering if anyone else found more to mine and enjoy on the small screen...

I've found that watching it for a second time has made some things much clearer, namely that it's very obviously the middle son who has died. This was not so clear to me for some reason in the theater. I love that Malick reveals this in the opening minutes, specifically in the mother's voiceover about "no one who trusts in grace comes to a bad end" and Malick deliberately chooses to contradict this notion by cutting to a shot of the middle son walking away and turning back plaintively, then immediately cutting to the repeating motif of the raging waterfall.

I haven't read most of the discussion, so forgive me if this has been batted around already, but are we to assume that the middle son committed suicide? He was artistic and obviously of a more sensitive disposition, and after his death the father mentions painfully that the boy used to punch himself in the face.

All in all, a much more potent experience... this second go-around.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0