(No) Voice Out of the Whirlwind: The Book of Job and the End of the World in A Serious Man, Take Shelter, and The Tree of Life

  • Author(s): Russell J. A. Kilbourn
  • When: 2014-01
  • Where: Adaptation
  • This article reconsiders three recent American films‚ÄîThe Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011), Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols, 2011), and A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2009)‚Äîin light of their status as adaptations or remediations of the Book of Job, and in terms of what these examples reveal about broader questions of the persistent privileging of the director as "auteur" as well as the aesthetic question of the pervasive use of digital effects in the representation of such classically "unrepresentable" objects as divinity, or the end of the world. This (generally unreflective) auteurist sensibility has found new purchase in the wake of the emergence of a quasi-theological film discourse which, ironically, in looking for "spirit" reveals only its image. The films converge around these questions in their respective treatment of the theophany in Job, in which God speaks to Job out of a whirlwind. In the end, with its ascription of part of God's speech to the figure of the mother, The Tree of Life proves to be the most radical adaptation.

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