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Malick views the world “as paradise and paradise lost, caught up in darkness and death but open to redemption through the radiance of unselfish individual action” (Silberman as in Michaels 8). The Tree of Life essentially puts Malicks view of the world on the big screen.
Nature is indifferent to us. What better way to demonstrate this than to show what a flash in the pan we are as a species by showing all that earth has gone through to get to where we are today through the big bang and evolution. We are insignificant as a species. Not just individually but everybody from Adam and Eve to you are completely insignificant. For the most part, we live as if we are the centers of the world.
We are all a part of nature, but we are also constantly trying to tame it. Malick clearly makes this point through scenes of volcanoes with a scene moments later focused on lighting a candle, which burns safely within a glass cup. Or, the rushing torrents of a waterfall followed by a scene focused on turning on the tap and unleashing a controlled waterfall of sorts.
Civilization has alienated us from nature. Sean Penns home in the movie is completely lifeless and sterile. Nature is kept at a distance. There is scene where his wife brings in flowers from outside and lays them on a countertop inside. For me, it demonstrated how inside that house, nature was dead.
Lots of duality. Nature’s power vs. Man’s seeking to control it, nature vs. grace. Great movie. I love it because it reminds all of us how insignificant we all really are. Ha…depressing sort of I admit.
This is a movie where it is not so much about the plot as it is the experience. This movie will take you on a journey looking back at a 40 something year old architect’s memories of growing up and thoughts of his brother who was just killed at war in Europe. The scene where the father (Brad Pitt) hears of his son’s death is perfect in how he is around all these extremely loud aircraft that suddenly fade away in the shock of what he has heard.
But what makes this movie so great is the context it provides. This context is not in terms of a single man’ life or a family’s. It is the context of the human species on a planet that took 5.3 billion years to be where it is today with us on it. There is a 15 minute or so Big Bang – Solar System Developing – Earth Forming – Life beginning – Dinosaurs – Meteor Wiping Them Out – Earth Evolving Some More After Obliteration sequence that is incredible. All of this leading to a family in a small Texas town suffering from the loss of a son and brother. The entire absurdity of our existence is what makes this movie so great as few actually consider it in our society. If there is a movie that will make you grateful for being alive and all the shit life brings your way, this will be it. This movie has the potential to open your eyes to the beauty of our world and to no longer sweat the small stuff.
Michaels, Lloyd. n.d. Terrence Malick.