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The Tree of Life (2011)

Terrence Malick

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#661 Nick Olson

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 11:45 AM


but I don't know that this lends itself to dichotomizing the "spiritual" and the "human." (Are these not inseparable, anyway?). So I would disagree that the film is not really dealing with grand theological issues. In short, I think it's all there--the "whole horse," as it were.


I think I probably put the movie in more of a box than I intended to with my comment—I didn’t mean to push its theological issues to the sidelines. I’ve just noticed that many around me (friends, family, acquaintances) want to draw an objective theological proposition out of it (sovereignty is a particular focus of some churches around me). That kind of response tends to bring out the reactionary in me, which is why I've focused more on the memory/cognition aspects. I do need to be careful, though, about ignoring what it says about God's nature, because that is very much a central issues (if not the central issue).



Definitely understandable!

#662 Overstreet

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 06:32 PM

indieWire posts Matt Zoller Seitz's new video essay: "SHOULD WIN: The Tree of Life."

They also posted Anne Thompson's new interview with Emmanuel Lubezki:

Lubezki, who has since made his third film with Malick, an untitled love story with Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams about a man who reconnects with a woman from his hometown while struggling with his marriage, has a new world view, thanks to the influence of the director.

"Working with Terry has changed my life," he admits. "I'm a different parent, I'm a different husband, and I'm a different friend. I see nature in a different way since I started working with Terry. I have much more respect for things that I wasn't aware of as much. He is one of the most important teachers in my life. And I'm a much better cinematographer in helping directors in a much more comprehensive way."


The interview also has some interesting suggestions regarding how much of Sean Penn's footage was not included in the finished film.

Edited by Overstreet, 10 February 2012 - 06:33 PM.


#663 Tyler

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 02:34 PM

The Onion: Leaf From Tree of Life Frontrunner for Best Actor Oscar.

#664 Overstreet

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 03:32 PM

Terrence Malick and Marilynne Robinson: Kindred Spirits?

#665 Nick Olson

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 03:43 PM

I actually made a similar connection in a column I wrote recommending Jeffrey's film criticism and his invitation to "look closer":

Finally, I’m thankful for Overstreet because his call to “look closer” reminds me of two of my favorite contemporary artists: Marilynne Robinson and Terrence Malick. In his emphasis on cultivating a kind of focused seeing, Overstreet—an artist in his own right—brings an artistry to film criticism and enjoyment. Inspired by John Calvin, Marilynne Robinson says “perception” is at the heart of both theology and her novelistic artistry. Seeing the grandeur of God in all of Creation is essential for her, and participating in this sacramental reality is part of what it means to give glory to God—or, to live graciously. At the heart of our fallenness, then, is our spiritual myopia. And, in this way, I can’t help but also think of Malick, whose films—in both form and content—inspire us to “notice the glory,” and the potential consequences when we fail to.



#666 Overstreet

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 05:33 PM

Well, this didn't take long. Already, somebody's added a comment about Heidegger to the article:

I don't want to come off sounding too academic here, but it's important to note the influence of Heideggerian existential philosophy on Malick's work. Although he studied under the English analytical philosopher Gilbert Ryle, Malick clearly was drawn more toward Heidegger's phenomenology, which emphasized humanity's "thrownness" in the everyday world of existence (what the German called Dasein) and the concealment from us of elemental "Being" (Sein). It's the flashes of this Being in Malick's films (captured so skillfully by his excellent cinematographers) that looks "spiritual," although it's nothing like Christianity. Heidegger was criticized, among other things (not least his politics!), for his lack of concern for individual human beings. Perhaps this explains why actors in Malick's films often complain about the final edits, which often mangle scenes and sometimes cut out characters altogether.

Notably, Malick's translation of Vom Wesen des Grundes ("The Essence of Reason") remains the standard English edition of the infamous German philosopher's text.



#667 Nick Olson

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 06:17 PM

Well, this didn't take long. Already, somebody's added a comment about Heidegger to the article:

I don't want to come off sounding too academic here, but it's important to note the influence of Heideggerian existential philosophy on Malick's work. Although he studied under the English analytical philosopher Gilbert Ryle, Malick clearly was drawn more toward Heidegger's phenomenology, which emphasized humanity's "thrownness" in the everyday world of existence (what the German called Dasein) and the concealment from us of elemental "Being" (Sein). It's the flashes of this Being in Malick's films (captured so skillfully by his excellent cinematographers) that looks "spiritual," although it's nothing like Christianity. Heidegger was criticized, among other things (not least his politics!), for his lack of concern for individual human beings. Perhaps this explains why actors in Malick's films often complain about the final edits, which often mangle scenes and sometimes cut out characters altogether.

Notably, Malick's translation of Vom Wesen des Grundes ("The Essence of Reason") remains the standard English edition of the infamous German philosopher's text.


I think we have good reason to believe that Malick, though certainly influenced by Heidegger, probably prefers Kierkegaard's "givenness" to Heidegger's "thrownness."

#668 Nick Olson

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 10:30 AM

Hey All,

I was wondering if anyone has come across any insightful commentary on Malick's use of music in The Tree of Life. More specifically, I'm interested in an analysis of some of the musical choices that seem to indicate an "upbuilding" or an "upward movement." I'm interested in musical choices that indicate the film's presupposition of love (if I may word it this way, and if I'm not mistaken that something like this exists in the film).

Admittedly, I'm not as well versed in the study of music (not in a sophisticated sense) as I'd like to be, so I'm interested in looking to see what others have said about the score, if anything.

Thanks!

#669 Christian

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 08:11 AM

This resolves nothing, if you ask me, but I always enjoy reading about authorial intent. I just wish I could more clearly discern it from what's reported here. Your mileage may vary.

#670 Greg P

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 10:47 AM

Admittedly, I'm not as well versed in the study of music (not in a sophisticated sense) as I'd like to be, so I'm interested in looking to see what others have said about the score, if anything.

Desplat's score-- which is what you get if you purchase the actual OST on iTunes or Amazon-- is barely featured in the film at all. A lot of folks who loved the music used in the film were up in arms when they downloaded the OST to find a rather meandering hodge podge of compositions, and not Tavener's Funeral Canticle and Resurrection in Hades or Preisner's Day of Tears (used to unforgettable effect in the creation sequence). I generally like Desplat's work, and Lust Caution and The Painted Veil are two remarkable favorites from him in my book, but this movie just demanded so much more than he was able to give.

Malick's decision to rely almost entirely on his own personal mixtape of beautiful classical pieces for the film's most compelling moments, was the right decision. I've since seen the film four times-- and recently purchased it on Blu Ray-- and the music is one of the many things that work so spectacularly for me.

Anyone interested can download the "real" soundtrack from the links posted here

Edited by Greg P, 13 April 2012 - 11:38 AM.


#671 Nick Olson

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 07:26 PM

Hey Arts and Faith folks. I just wanted to pass along an essay that I've been pondering over for a while and finally finished. During the sermon on Job that is preached in the middle of the The Tree of Life, the priest is preaching some lines straight from one of Kierkegaard's Upbuilding Discourses, "The Lord Gave, The Lord Took Away; Blessed be the Name of the Lord." I wanted to take this as an entry point for considering the film as a whole.

The essay is called "They Who See God's Hand: The Tree of Life as an "Upbuilding Discourse."

I think Kierkegaard may have been mentioned fairly early in the thread. I know he came to mind for me even before I knew of this more direct connection in the film.

#672 Darrel Manson

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 07:39 PM

During the sermon on Job that is preached in the middle of the The Tree of Life, the priest is preaching some lines straight from one of Kierkegaard's Upbuilding Discourses, "The Lord Gave, The Lord Took Away; Blessed be the Name of the Lord."

That is a great thing to know.

And a very nice essay. Thanks

#673 Nick Olson

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 07:55 PM

Thanks, Darrel! I appreciate it.

#674 M. Leary

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 08:23 AM

Your essay raises an interesting question. You say toward the beginning: "At the time, my hesitance stemmed from what I thought was the relative tenuousness of the connection; it’s not exactly considered a shrewd critical move to draw attention to a director’s personal interests when commenting on his or her film."

I have been mulling this over ever since I first read it. I agree that we can't rely on a reconstruction of a director's personal interests and academic/professional background as a lens through which we interpret everything they do. At least, we shouldn't assume that such an approach gives us a total picture of what is going on in a given film.

But... on the other hand, at some point we have to begin to interface with a director as a human being with stated interests, cultural characteristics, and a career with recognizable patterns or themes. It is shrewd to think of every Herzog film as part of an evolving canon, or of Tarkovsky's cinema in light of his own book on the subject.

So where is the critical line here?

Edited by M. Leary, 15 May 2012 - 08:23 AM.


#675 Anders

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 08:49 AM

Your essay raises an interesting question. You say toward the beginning: "At the time, my hesitance stemmed from what I thought was the relative tenuousness of the connection; it’s not exactly considered a shrewd critical move to draw attention to a director’s personal interests when commenting on his or her film."

I have been mulling this over ever since I first read it. I agree that we can't rely on a reconstruction of a director's personal interests and academic/professional background as a lens through which we interpret everything they do. At least, we shouldn't assume that such an approach gives us a total picture of what is going on in a given film.

But... on the other hand, at some point we have to begin to interface with a director as a human being with stated interests, cultural characteristics, and a career with recognizable patterns or themes. It is shrewd to think of every Herzog film as part of an evolving canon, or of Tarkovsky's cinema in light of his own book on the subject.

So where is the critical line here?


I think Nicholas' nod is to the fact that auteur studies are very much out of vogue (no matter how much we are constantly attracted to them), and he wanted something in the text to hang his interpretation on.

#676 Nick Olson

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 09:11 AM

Hey Michael.

I have been mulling this over ever since I first read it. I agree that we can't rely on a reconstruction of a director's personal interests and academic/professional background as a lens through which we interpret everything they do. At least, we shouldn't assume that such an approach gives us a total picture of what is going on in a given film.


In short, I think I was probably a little too cautious/wary of the folks who (rightly to a degree) are bothered by one's latching on to a particular biographical detail that suits an interpretation he/she wishes to bring to the text haphazardly.

But... on the other hand, at some point we have to begin to interface with a director as a human being with stated interests, cultural characteristics, and a career with recognizable patterns or themes. It is shrewd to think of every Herzog film as part of an evolving canon, or of Tarkovsky's cinema in light of his own book on the subject.


I very much agree, and it's the type of criticism/essay I enjoy most. Ultimately, Anders is right that I was looking for more solid ground in the film itself so as to gain more credibility with the folks who might most take issue with my approach. Though, I readily admit that my concern over it was probably more characteristic of my own fault-worthy anxiety to precede every possible objection.

#677 M. Leary

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 11:21 AM

In short, I think I was probably a little too cautious/wary of the folks who (rightly to a degree) are bothered by one's latching on to a particular biographical detail that suits an interpretation he/she wishes to bring to the text haphazardly.


I do the same thing, in that I often feel as if I need to hedge my bets when linking an artist and their work. While I am wary of "latching on to a particular biographical detail that suits an interpretation he/she wishes to bring to the text," your essay is a good example of picking up on something important to the director and diving into that rabbit hole.

#678 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 04 August 2012 - 03:01 PM

Noah Millman considers this film, A Serious Man and the Book of Job:

“The Tree of Life,” meanwhile, is all about that voice. The movie is plainly a meditation on Job. It opens with a quote from Job, contains an extended sequence in a church in which the pastor preaches on the Book of Job, and both the mother and the older brother of the boy who dies explicitly echo Job’s questions as they try to understand, where is God when unjust things happen?

But the film is suffused, almost smothered, by Terrence Malick’s version of the answer from the whirlwind, his depiction of the wonder of creation. From repeated shots of the towering trees of 1960s Waco to abstract compositions of light and water to extended sequences depicting the creation of the world and the evolution of life, Malick’s film wants to show us what the whirlwind told Job: creation is unfathomably grand, terrifying, and wonderful. There’s even a shot of a sea monster! This material infuriated many reviewers, who wanted a narrower focus on the lost paradise of Waco, but what infuriated them is the heart of the movie. If this material feels irrelevant to the story, well, isn’t the voice from the whirlwind on the surface pretty irrelevant to Job’s questions? Job is suffering, and God says: look at the parking lot! This is an answer? No, it isn’t an answer – it’s an attempt to change Job’s perspective. So, too, Malick with our expectations of how a story of a man’s life gets resolved.


(Apropos of trees, I note that the Coen brothers had to digitally remove the trees from their 1960s Minneapolis suburb – because back in the 1960s the trees that now tower over the post-war houses were only saplings. I wonder whether Waco was actually leafier, or whether Malick wished to remember it that way.) . . .


[ snip ]


One of the best things about the vision of creation in “The Tree of Life” is the embrace of the fact of destruction, not only in that final sequence but in the early dinosaur sequence, which ends with an asteroid hitting the earth, wiping out much of creation. More than the brief appearance of the aquatic dinosaur “Leviathan,” this, it seems to me, is Malick’s version of the voice from the whirlwind’s assertion of the primacy of destructive monsters in God’s creation. It is not merely that the gift of life must be returned, and at a time of God’s choosing. God is willing to visit destruction upon His creation on a scale that, from a narrative perspective, cannot be meaningfully comprehended. The walk on the beach can, it seems to me, be interpreted as a dodge that makes this comprehensible – a dodge that The Book of Job declines to take. (There is no reference, in Job, either to a resurrection or an afterlife.) I prefer to believe that Malick didn’t intend an overtly theological interpretation, that this beach exists in man’s mind, not God’s, that the significance is Jack’s mother’s ability, in this imagined space, to fully reconcile herself to her son’s being taken, and therefore for Jack to reconcile himself to his survival, his continued participation in branching, forking life, rather than what I have to call the fantasy that, in the end, Job doesn’t just get a new family, he gets his old family back. Because he doesn’t. We don’t. . . .



#679 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 07:01 PM

Incidentally, Steve Sailer noted the other day: "In the movie, Pitt's character describes himself as holder of 27 patents. Online, I can only find ten patents held by Emil A. Malick, but double digits is pretty good, anyway."

Oh wow. I just Googled "emil malick" to double-check that that is, in fact, Malick's father's name. And one of the top results was a WhitePages.com page that listed the elder Malick's address, phone number, and age (94; the younger Malick is 67). Freaky.


Emil Malick's obituary, courtesy of the Tulsa World:

Emil A. Malick, age 96, resident of Bartlesville, died on February 9, 2013 at Jane Phillips Hospital. A Requiem Mass will be said at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Saturday, February 16, at 2 PM. The family has requested no flowers. Survivors include his son Terrence and wife Alexandra of Austin, Texas, and his daughter-in-law Ann and grandsons David and Michael of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Friends who wish may sign the online guest book and leave condolences at www.stumpff.org This obituary was published in the Tulsa World on 2/13/2013.



#680 Overstreet

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 01:17 PM

Today, we have an update on Voyage of Time, which I think earns that project its own thread.

(I couldn't find an existing one...)





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