Mirror of Justice

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Augustine and The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick's masterpiece The Tree of Life is a stunningly beautiful film, but be forewarned that it doesn't have a straightforward plot insofar as it's about...well, everything from the origin of the universe through the evolution of life on Earth to the end of matter, with a lingering pause on a Catholic family in 1950s Waco, Texas. The otherwise gushing reviews from critics have largely missed the film's Augustinian themes: nature and grace ("The nuns taught us there were two ways through life, the way of nature and the way of grace."), interiority and the second-person dialogue with God that echoes Augustine's Confessions ("I didn't know how to name You then. But I see it was You. Always You were calling me."), love (“The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by.”), and the surd of human sinfulness in a "Pear Tree"-like incident. Terrence Malick is an eccentric genius, but he's made the most overtly theological major American motion picture since Bruce Beresford's Tender Mercies in 1983.

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Thank you for your insightful post. Regarding overtly theological movies, you may be interested in "The Addiction", a powerful 1995 movie dealing with the nature of sin using the mythology of vampires. It is philosophically and theologically provocative. Must be seen numerous times.

Posted by: Bruce W. Green | Jun 30, 2011 2:29:20 PM

I rarely go to the movies. But I made an exception for Tree of Life and I am glad I did. On some levels (not all) it is the best movie that I've ever seen. There is not a false note in it. It seems almost miraculous that a film of such religious depth, in this day and age, has been made and given wide distribution.

Posted by: Dan | Jul 4, 2011 12:24:08 AM