Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life has won the Palme d’or, and the timing couldn’t be better. This maddening, exquisite work has already haunted more than a few of us at Reverse Shot. We thought the best way to wrestle with this film—whose spiritual density is tempered by its ethereal construction and remarkable intimacy—was, in the best RS tradition, to look at it from multiple view points. Check back here for new takes on The Tree of Life all week.
First up, Chris Wisniewski tackles the spiritual philosophy that gives Tree its life.
Read an excerpt below and then go on to read the essay, “Known Unknowns,” in its entirety.
It’s no surprise that a movie this ambitious and this difficult has been met, its Cannes victory notwithstanding, with varying degrees of praise and hostility, but I am surprised by how quick many have been (particularly those who fall somewhere in the middle) to complain that the film is “flawed” or “imperfect.” Let’s set aside the question of what constitutes a “perfect film”—as if some such a Platonic ideal existed. An assertion of The Tree of Life’s “flaws” insinuates that Malick’s project isn’t worthwhile (fine, if you wish) or that The Tree of Life somehow falls short at what it sets out to do. This dubious latter argument, however, fails after we more rigorously and thoroughly investigate the philosophy underlying Malick’s filmmaking.