US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Tree of Life: Death's a beach

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Was delighted to read in today's Chicago Tribune a reviewer's critique of Terrence Malick's vision of heaven in his otherwise beautiful Tree of Life (my delight is probably connected to the fact that I agree!). Leah Rozen actually spends more time with other cinematic visions of heaven than Malick's, and her judgment is simply that they aren't terribly visionary. (You can read Pat McCormick's review of Malick's film here.)

I admit I found Malick's eternal imagination to be the least provocative element of his otherwise incredible film. Malick managed convincing riffs on original sin, suffering, nature and grace, the human condition, and the spiritual journey--he even treated us to a beautiful symbol of the Trinity in feminine form--but when he came to the eschaton, he seemed to get tired, taking us all to a sandy beach to be reunited and reconciled with our loved ones.

It's a lovely vision, but I for one wish he had cut the film about 20 minutes earlier, when the central family has to leave its home; it feels like a death, but a "good" one, mixed with both sadness and joy at the end of one way of living and the passage to another, one shrouded in uncertainty--beyond our grasp, like the resurrection

Maybe it's just me, but life beyond death is just too ephemeral to put on the silver screen, at least in the way Malick has imagined it. That said, I can only praise him for giving the Christian story of the universe and everything a film worthy of its beauty.