Thursday, March 15, 2012

Terence Malick's The Tree of Life

We saw Terrence Malick's film The Tree of Life last night.

If you want real psychological wrestling with life and the universe and the anxieties of being a parent along with fantastic photography of the cosmos and if you don't tend to fall asleep during long still scenes, it's the film for you.

If you're the parent of 7 children and the author of 1 divorce the film will awaken 7 X 7 fears in you (although they are surely already awake somewhere in your seething psyche).

This still, for instance. The main conflicts in the film are between the father and his oldest son. There are conflicts because they are both conflicted. The boy loves his father and fears him. The father loves his son and also controls him.

The hand on the boy's neck, for instance. Is it a controlling hand or a loving hand? That depends entirely on what has just happened in the film. And sometimes the answer is that it is both. Like the answer to a host of questions about my own fathering. I recognized, in the film father's gestures, my own loving and controlling gestures.

The story is seen backwards through the memory of the second-oldest brother long after his older brother dies (in war?).

Here he is wandering through the Goblin Valley of his mind.

As I once did:

5 April 1992, Highway 6, Utah
We’re on the way home from Goblin Valley, a wild place dotted with hoodoos – wind-and-rain-carved Entrada sandstone curiosities balanced on softer, crumbling pedestals.
            I didn’t sleep well. Stars burned apocalyptically in the moonless night. Rips in the universe. Time materialized as Orion slipped beyond the horizon. Turning on its axis, the Big Dipper rotated across the sky. Always constant. Always changing.
Night wind sifted soft red sand into my sleeping bag. By morning I was part of a small dune. Beside me, not stirring yet, the seven children were an uneven row of smaller dunes, my wife a larger dune at the far end.

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