Talking to God, Under Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life

  • Author(s): João de Mancelos
  • When: 2013-05
  • Where: Source
  • Terrence Malick's Tree of Life (2011) constitutes an exception in a market flooded with commercial cinematic productions. Its experimental nature is best revealed by non-linear narrative, breathtaking images of the origins of the universe, and a creative approach to an old theme: what is the meaning of life? When middle-aged architect Jack O'Brien sees a tree being planted in front of a building, he meditates upon his childhood and adolescence, in Waco, Texas, during the fifties. Several aspects of his social and family life, such as the relationship with a strict father, representing “nature”, and a gentle mother, symbolizing “grace”; his experiments with sexuality and violence; his father's struggle to overcome failure; his mother's anguish in face of the loss of a child. This journey from innocence to childhood prompts several questions regarding the meaning of life, the relevance of faith and forgiveness. In this paper, I reflect on the central symbol of the movie, the “tree of life”, analyzing its cinematic representation; its symbolic, oneiric and religious meanings; and how it congregates the fragments of the narrative and its protagonists. For that purpose, I resort to mythology, anthropology and religion.

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