Opinion

Emanuel Derman

The Tree of Life

By Emanuel Derman
July 5, 2011

Last night I went to see Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life.” It’s not a movie, it’s a multiverse, a meditation, a “Koyanisqaatsi” inspired by the Bible rather than by Buddhist texts.

Who the hell are you to question what I do? God said to the people who thought he had punished Job for his (Job’s) bad deeds. It’s about the wonder and the horror, the good and the bad that all exist beyond explanation.

God’s existence, according to one part of the movie, is evident just as much in his turning away from you as in his paying attention to you. It ends in a scene reminiscent of the end of “The White Hotel” (a marvelous book) by D.M. Thomas, with everyone from the past, present and future brought together. If you have religious inclinations, it’s a multidimensional story and meditation on Job and time and connectedness and mysterious fate. If you don’t, it’s the same, and you can still be be entranced by its pantheistic vision, but the background music may irritate you.

The audience was absolutely rapt; not a laugh, not a sigh, not a rustle of candy wrappers or crunching of popcorn. Everyone was silent and just got up and left wordlessly at the end.

I don’t know if I recommend it. It’s such an ambitious and sad movie; Brad Pitt and the two sons tug at your heart in the misery they can’t escape; it made you want to repent and seek forgiveness for all the unhappiness you’ve ever been party to. At yet at the same time, I’m not sure how much will remain in memory. Time will tell.

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