Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Astonishment (02/02/12)
TITLE: The Tree of Life -- wonder and bewilderment
By Sydney Avey
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The drama of the human family plays out against dramatic visual imagery that paints the bigger picture. Set to classical music and an original score by Alexandre Desplat the film poses God’s question to Job—where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?—but without words.
In the context of the wonder of creation and the bewilderment of humanity, a mother looks up and verbalizes every question man has ever asked his Creator. A father raises his children on gut instinct but fails to appreciate the glory of it all. As the children grow, they portray the heartbreaking loss of innocence.
“We see brute nature and spiritual grace shape not only our lives as individuals and families, but all life,” the trailer note tells us but the “show don’t tell” nature of this film does more to flesh out the human condition than words can say.
Impressionistic views of vast landscapes reveal the God of nature without claiming that nature is God. The sounds and images of powerful volcanic eruptions, the dangerous dance of molten lava, the restless roaring waters and ceaseless swooshing tides toggle on the screen with a silent specter of light undulating in the darkness. Then the camera lens moves in to focus at almost a cellular level of life, leading us to contemplate the mystery of the nature of God.
“Does it all make sense?” asks New York Times critic A. O. Scott. “I can’t say that it does. I suspect, though, that sometime between now and Judgment Day, it will.”
The Tree of Life is a two-and-a-half star rated movie and an Academy Award nominee. More art than entertainment, it will have a limited audience. Brad Pitt produces and backseats in his role of husband to luminous Jessica Chastain. Sean Penn plays the world weary grown son trying to synthesize his mother’s spirituality and his father’s secularism. The real star is the cinematography. The scope of the sumptuous visuals, the beauty of the musical score and the dreamy pacing invite worship.
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