16 Sep 2011
I wanted to be loved because I was great; A big man. I’m nothing. Look at the glory around us; trees, birds. I lived in shame. I dishonored it all, and didn’t notice the glory. I’m a foolish man.
Terrence Malick’s movies are about the conflict that arises when we come to understand that we are never that which we aspire to be and in that realization is both damnation and salvation. The most terrifying aspect of childhood is discovering that our parents are, in fact, human: that our father was once a boy and our mother was once a girl, both of them filled with the same tendencies that we are beginning to discover in ourselves.
The Tree of Life moves slowly through a childhood and takes careful steps in and out of an entire lifetime as a boy realizes that there is no startling transformation into a man, simply the steady march of time that is filled with half-understood lessons, fleeting happinesses, and many regrets.
Each moment in this movie takes its time, pulling us through the scenes as if we, too, were children and every second stretched out to infinity. We can all recall the endless summers of our youth and how, as we age, time begins to slip through our hands faster than we can even grasp what we are seeing and feeling. With The Tree of Life, Malick, for the briefest of times, returns us to the days of innocence when we were still perfect creatures, unbroken by the harshness of the world around us and the even harsher burden of being alone with ourselves.
And it is beautiful.