Yesterday my friend Judy and I went to the local art theater and saw The Tree of Life. I had heard all kinds of things about it, since it won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Most of what I had heard was positive, but one of the reviews from someone I knew didn't like the film at all. The link above (from Wikipedia) tells you about it, what it is, and there is no danger at all in revealing the plot, because there really isn't one. From that link:
The film chronicles the origins and meaning of life through the eyes of a 1950s Texas family, while also featuring sci-fi and surrealist themes and imagery through space and the birth of life on Earth. ... It opened in limited release on May 27, 2011 to positive reviews on its technical and artistic merits, yet also received polarizing reactions in response to Malick's directorial style and, in particular, with the film's fragmented and non-linear narrative.There were moments when I was absolutely overwhelmed with the film's imagery, and other moments when I wished the movie would end soon so I could be released from the theater. Brad Pitt is perfect as a stern father and evoked all kinds of emotions within me, as did the other performances. They were all pitch-perfect, but the death of one of the sons when he was nineteen, never explained but a central part of the story, is one of the reasons I spent last night in turmoil. It brought up all those thoughts of loss that dwell within me, within any person who has lost a loved one, and what it all means in the larger perspective of life.
We are such insignificant little specks in the vast universe, and no film I've seen before this one has ever brought that concept into such vivid focus. When the lights came on at the end of the movie, nobody said a word, and we, the audience, filed out of the theater in silence. Coming up from what seemed to be the bottom of a well into the bright late afternoon sunlight on a June day, we went our separate ways with our separate reactions.
Judy and I were planning to have dinner, and a sign strategically placed in front of the theater pointed us to the Mount Bakery restaurant right across the street, so we headed over there. Another couple who had seen the movie also came in for dinner, and I asked what they thought of it. It turned out that the wife knew from the reviews she wouldn't like it, so she sat in the car and read a book while hubby saw it. He was as confused about his feelings as I was. Judy was obviously disappointed in it, and I just didn't know what to think. But last night as I lay in bed, tired and ready for sleep, images and messages from the movie kept coming back to me. A sense of rightness about the love we carry for those who are gone before us, for those parts of ourselves who are no longer here but exist in our memories, kept entering my thoughts and somehow comforting me. That's the only way I can describe it.
I feel sometimes that I've spent way too much time here on this blog lamenting my losses, holding onto them as though they define me in some sense. The feeling I got from this movie is that in the very fact of being alive and conscious, we are all destined to experience loss and grief, as well as incredible beauty. Universal forces are so vast and so far beyond our understanding that it is truly an impossibility to make sense of it. Our world, our own private universes, are infinitesimal specks in the cosmos, but somehow this movie gave me the feeling that it doesn't matter, or that it all matters the same as the vast nebulae that we peer at through our telescopes. Or as the microbes we view through our microscopes.
In the final analysis, we are each one of us alone and separate from one another, but our activities bring us into community with those who matter to us. My electronic reaching out to you, dear reader, connects me to you in a way I don't pretend to understand. But you matter to me as we send out our thoughts to one another. The sharing of our hopes and dreams, our sense of loss and love, and acknowledging those connections is as real as any of the other magnificent facets of our lives.