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The Tree of Life (2011)

Terrence Malick

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#621 Attica

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Posted 07 August 2011 - 02:38 PM

Nicholas said:




I understand what you're saying. Certainly people could still read it in different ways. But it seems to me that by starting with the passage from Job, those questions are almost out of the purview of the film's
scope. Of course, the film could inspire intensely personal reactions that could be outside of - even contrary to - this scope, but it seems to me that the issue at stake is one's wrestling with faith in God -
not so much wrestling with whether or not He exists. When I say faith, I don't mean faith that he exists, but faith in the sense that one is committed to Him - in spite of suffering, death, loss, and the
alienating effect of sin.




Sure. There is no doubt that the passage from Job is very significant. I like the idea of wrestling with faith in God. Part of this idea is the question of where is he? How involved is he? Does he really care?

This film has a good balance in wrestling with these questions. If it had of played God as to involved (or really involved in obvious ways) then of course the wrestling ends. But I think Ryan is on to something
with the idea that the film could have more shown the idea that the God to be questioned and wrestled with is the truly Christian God. But would that ruin the questions and the wrestling?

The quote from Job to us means that the film isn't wrestling with whether or not Christ exists. Yet is that how, for instance, a Jewish person would read the film. They may not see the film as wrestling with whether
or not Yahweh exists, but very much wrestling with whether or not Jack's family's view of God exists (they were Catholics after all.) Or even whether or not they truly believed in God (their going to church might
have been just a cultural thing.) More Christian imagery would certainly have resonated with me more. But was that the films intentions?



The film could be perceived as asking. How do we see God? Is God present or has he just started it all and left us to our own devices? Jack as an adult certainly seemed to be in a sad existence without God.
But I would think that the film leaves the question open as to whether or not God was really there for him...... or distant.

FWIW.... As you probably gleaned from my other posts. To my mind the answer to the questions is a resounding yes. God was there amongst them, even if they didn't really know it.

Edited by Attica, 07 August 2011 - 09:55 PM.


#622 Christian

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Posted 07 August 2011 - 02:57 PM

I noticed that Victor Morton, on Twitter, raised his rating of the film from a 9 to a 10 after a second viewing. It's almost enough to forgive him for all the shots he's taken at the Coen Brothers in recent days. ;)

#623 Attica

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Posted 07 August 2011 - 09:55 PM

Yes, indeed. I hope you'll have the chance to take a look at my review, Attica. I think you''ll find it interesting. It focuses on the outworking of grace and grace's absence in the film.






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.

Edited by Attica, 07 August 2011 - 09:56 PM.


#624 Tyler

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 10:15 AM

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

Spoilers throughout.
Spoiler

Edited by Tyler, 08 August 2011 - 10:16 AM.


#625 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 12:09 PM

Nicholas wrote:
: Again, how is the way of grace "disembodied" if it is persons who are living it?

I don't recall saying it was "disembodied" in the first place.

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

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?

Ryan H. wrote:
: But if I had to guess, the way the film connects Jack's life to the cosmic sequence seems to suggest that sin/disorder is really just an outgrowth of the natural flow-and-ebb of time, and that it eventually all comes out right in the end, not that sin/disorder is part of a grand catastrophe that introduced death and suffering to human experience, that it is a kind of penalty.

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.).

: . . . 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!

old wave wrote:
: If simply "acting willfully" transcends nature, then what do you make of the phrase "human nature" and all it denotes and connotes?

"Human nature" is one of those impersonal forces that people try to transcend by "acting wilfully". This gets to the heart of the question about free will: do we have it? can we have it? does it even exist? Or is every choice that every person makes simply the end result of various impersonal forces that dictate our actions? I think MANY of our choices are actually little more than "force of habit", as the saying goes, and this is why religious traditions have always encouraged people to DISCIPLINE themselves and DEVELOP new habits, through fasting and prayer etc.

: : : After all, immediately after the mother claims that nothing bad can come to someone who follows the way of grace, we hear about the death of the middle brother. Since he, along with his mother, are avatars of the way of grace, this early death (especially if you take into consideration Malick's brother's own suicide) serves as a direct challenge to this view.
: :
: : Is committing suicide what one does when one is an avatar of the way of grace?
:
: I can't understand how you got that from that sentence.

I didn't "get that" from anything. I asked a question. I posed a "direct challenge" to your idea that the son in question had continued in the way of grace. We simply don't know what had happened between childhood and adulthood, there.

#626 Ryan H.

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 12:16 PM

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.

#627 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 12:36 PM

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)?

#628 Attica

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 02:27 PM

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, 08 August 2011 - 06:25 PM.


#629 Ryan H.

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 05:38 PM

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., 08 August 2011 - 06:08 PM.


#630 N.K. Carter

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 12:56 AM

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

Spoilers throughout.

Spoiler


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.

#631 Nick Olson

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 06:13 AM

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.christand...e-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!

#632 Nick Olson

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 06:59 AM

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.

#633 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 11:09 PM

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.

#634 Overstreet

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 11:54 AM

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, 22 August 2011 - 11:55 AM.


#635 Attica

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 03:08 PM

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.

#636 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 03:25 PM

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.

#637 Overstreet

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 01:06 PM

Out on October 11.

Posted Image

Edited by Overstreet, 30 August 2011 - 01:06 PM.


#638 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 04:45 PM

Out on October 11.

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

#639 Darrel Manson

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 05:02 PM

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

#640 Scholar's Parrot

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 05:07 PM

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, 30 August 2011 - 05:07 PM.






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