The Tree of Life (2011)
April 15, 2020 2:06 PM - Subscribe

The story of a family in Waco, Texas in 1956. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence and struggles with his parents' conflicting teachings.
posted by ob1quixote (6 comments total)
I was surprised to find that this picture wasn't already here. I couldn't find a link that really encapsulated the controversy at the time of its release, but this AV Club piece does the best job. I remember that at least one theater had to post a sign reminding patrons that there would be no refunds.

I wanted to talk about it because I feel like the film's thesis of Grace versus Nature was prescient about the battle lines being drawn across the world between the community of the beloved and the legion of the hateful. But when I ask people if they've seen it, usually the answer is no. So I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised.

In any event, I was deeply affected by this movie. I wish more people had seen it.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:29 PM on April 15, 2020

I have to give this another shot. I went in maybe 6 months ago having heard such good things about it, and I really, really bounced off of it. I'm not sure if it was the narration, the interpolation of nature images, or what exactly, but I really struggled to finish it. Maybe it was my mindset going it and if I went in with less expectations it would have resonated more? I definitely am interested in hear what others found it in.
posted by Carillon at 4:21 PM on April 15, 2020

It didn’t speak to me either. At all.
posted by STFUDonnie at 8:15 PM on April 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

my uncle's lumias were used in the production.
posted by brujita at 8:55 PM on April 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Hmm, as noted, Tree of Life is a divisive film even among hardcore film aficionados who have no problem with loose contemplative film structure, with some loving it and Malick's other recent films and some finding it more problematic. It's a film of/about faith, in an important sense, which seems to be the point of division in a lot of ways, where, like with all faith, the cards are stacked to find favor for those who accept the terms of engagement and those who reject them out of hand for finding fault with some of the premises given as conditions for accepting the conclusion.

I'm trying to be even handed in my response because I know some people I respect who really love the movie, but I had problems with it that make it difficult to be entirely neutral on the film. The grace vs nature conflict is represented in part by defining Jack's childhood as fitting a Oedipal familial relationship between himself and his father and mother. The mother is more a creature of grace, the father of nature, in some basic sense, though the family life, or indeed all life is "of nature" and its only through a sort of faith that one can find the grace to transcend that existence.

As a story of an individual man, that might work as sufficient example to be extrapolated to fit other lives and circumstances, but that narrowness of viewpoint does also have the potential to render those other lives as already outside the bounds of grace if they don't accept the qualifying premises. The idea of the family putting up with the father/husband as a necessary element of acceptance, for example, is a very male perspective, and the other elements of the film can be seen as flowing from that same kind of singular white middle class male idea of living and transcendence. I won't dig into the various elements of the movie to make a case because I really don't want to dissuade anyone from seeing it and appreciating it in their own way because it does have many passionate supporters, I'm just not quite there myself.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:11 AM on April 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Tree of Life is streaming in the US via HBO and DirecTV.
posted by Etrigan at 3:21 PM on April 16, 2020

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