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“The Tree of Life” Day 2: Garden of the World

"The Tree of Life" Day 2: Garden of the World

In 1944, toward the end of his life, D. W. Griffith lamented, “What’s missing from the movies nowadays is the beauty of the moving wind in the trees.” By then, the sound film had eclipsed the cinema the director had shaped in the early decades of the twentieth century. For Griffith, movies had become talkative and quick, their rapid montage obscuring the fleeting details in the background, not only the rustling of tree leaves but also the small, barely noticeable touches that give a film the full sense of a world—or, in the case of Terrence Malick’s latest, The Tree of Life, a universe. I imagine Griffith would have been pleased with the many sky-bound tree views in Malick’s films—aside from magnolia blossoms in Tree, there’s Kit and Holly’s treehouse in Badlands, burning bushes in Days of Heaven, swaying palms in The Thin Red Line, and virgin forests in The New World—but moreover he likely would have been awestruck by the formal breakthroughs that accompany them in Tree’s elliptical arrangement of time, its visions almost entirely composed of the incidental. Even without the film’s already controversial foray into the cosmos, these small moments of one family’s life in a quiet Texas town amount to nothing less than the eternal. Read Genevieve Yue’s article on Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life.

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