Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life”: A Prayer on Film

Roger Ebert, my all-time favorite movie critic and one whose life experience makes him credible to write this review, today reviews Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life.” Ebert’s view of this film as a prayer is the reason I am so passionate about film — its ability to open our eyes, to tell the stories of our lives, to place them in the greater story of the universe, of a narrative arc of our lives shaped by the gentle and gracious hand of Providence, and to do so with imagination and beauty. I love the work of director Terrence Malick, who also attends my church in LA when he is not in his native Austin. I can’t wait to see this film, and I hope you will join me in the experience. Hats off to FOX Searchlight Films for giving us the opportunity. Ebert writes of the film:

“Many films diminish us. They cheapen us, masturbate our senses, hammer us with shabby thrills, diminish the value of life. Some few films evoke the wonderment of life’s experience, and those I consider a form of prayer. Not prayer “to” anyone or anything, but prayer “about” everyone and everything. I believe prayer that makes requests is pointless. What will be, will be. But I value the kind of prayer when you stand at the edge of the sea, or beneath a tree, or smell a flower, or love someone, or do a good thing. Those prayers validate existence and snatch it away from meaningless routine. …

What Malick does in “Tree of Life” is create the span of lives. Of birth, childhood, the flush of triumph, the anger of belittlement, the poison of resentment, the warmth of forgiving. And he shows that he feels what I feel, that it was all most real when we were first setting out, and that it will never be real in that way again. In the face of Hunter McCracken, who plays Jack as a boy, we see the face of Sean Penn, who plays him as a man. We see fierceness and pain. We see that he hates his father and loves him. When his father has a talk with him and says, “I was a little hard on you sometimes,” he says, “It’s your house. You can do what you want to.” And we realize how those are not words of anger but actually words of forgiveness. Someday he will be the father. It will not be so easy.”

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2011/05/a_prayer_beneath_the_tree_of_l.html

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One Response to “Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life”: A Prayer on Film”
  1. Matt Stewart says:

    Good review! I think most people greatly misunderstand this film and it seems you have it right on though! There isn’t much of a narrative, because the film (like 2001) speaks to an audience through it’s visuals, expressions, etc. The Tree of Life is about the meaning of life, what’s wrong with that? I just don’t get some people…

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