"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). The heavens declare. The stars speak. They bear witness to the glory of God. But what do they say? Our gaze is naturally drawn upward. We are curious about what's up there. Beyond us. Both discoverable and undiscoverable. Our frontier longing beckons us to the telescope. To search the vast heavens. To know what we can know, but maybe moreso to know what we cannot know.
What does it mean that when Jesus entered Jerusalem the week he was crucified, the crowd "took branches of palm trees" (John 12:13) to welcome him? What do we make of the moment when Jesus curses the fig tree? What does it mean that the Bible begins with a “Tree of Life" in Eden (Gen. 2:9) and ends with a "Tree of Life" at the end, a tree whose leaves "were for the healing of the nations" (Rev. 22:2, 14, 19)?
If you're lucky enough to live in one of the few places where Terrence Malick's Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience is playing, do yourself a favor and go see it. Take your kids, your church small group, your fellow lovers of cinema and nature and awe-inspiring beauty. The 45-minute film (a 90-minute, non-IMAX version is set to release in 2017) is a perfect example of the sort of liturgical cinema Malick has mastered
I’m sitting here looking at the Christmas tree in our room, a 7-foot Noble Fir, still aromatic and alive, glistening with lights and glittery ornaments. Part forest and part carnival, a natural and cultural creation, it stands as a shy but stately symbol of so much more than just holiday cheer. Its triangular, evergreen shape and prickly, shedding branches tell a much bigger story.
In the Christianity of my childhood, Easter Sunday was Cadbury eggs, brunch and celebratory church services full of rollicking hymns like “Up from the grave He arose.” In my adolescence and twenty-something years I became fond of celebrating Good Friday, a part of Easter weekend largely bypassed in my childhood. With its mournful tone and quieter focus on the cross, Good Friday was almost more compelling to my melancholy self than the joy of Easter.
I think it was Kierkegaard who said that while life is lived forwards, it can only be understood backwards. Certainly most art proves the truth of this statement. While life presses on breathlessly and leaves nary a moment for sense-making, artists are the ones who press pause and rewind, arranging the pieces, plot-points and colors for us in such a way that the full (or fuller) picture is seen.
Among the many questions prompted by a close viewing of this finale sequence—and indeed, the whole film—is the identity and meaning of the mystery woman seen with Jessica Chastain’s older and younger self in the “Amen” sequence. She shows up in part (usually just her hands) and in full on a number of occasions throughout the film--especially at the beginning of Jack’s life and in the film’s final fifteen minutes.
There was so much good cinema that my “best of” list actually includes three different top tens: the best 10, the second best 10, and then 10 honorable mentions. Many of them are available now on Netflix Instant, while a few of them have yet to release in most parts of the country. However you can, I hope you get a chance to see them!
Like Adam before us, and Noah, and Abraham and Israel, followers of Jesus are called to bring light to the darkness; to spread the illumination like in those candle light Christmas Eve services of our youth; or like that little blue candle and mysterious wispy flame in The Tree of Life. It's Ruach. The Spirit of God. Reminding us of hope, empowering us to carry on.
As I've reflected on The Tree of Life (I think I've seen it about 10 times now), I'm no less awestruck by its beauty now than I was in the beginning. It's a film overflowing with the sublime, the transcendent, the holy. I've heard others call it a worshipful experience and I certainly concur. The following are the scenes that get me the most, each time I watch Life. They are, in my opinion, the 10 most transcendent sequences of the film.
In recent weeks, several prominent film critics have engaged in a lively back-and-forth about the question of "slow and boring" cinema. Hearkening back to the famous Pauline Kael-Andrew Sarris debates of the 60s-70s, this latest debate revives some of the classic, ongoing tensions in cinema, and raises fundamental questions about about the movies are for, and how we should watch them.
The Tree of Life, like Terrence Malick's other 4 films, is rich with layers of beauty and meaning, but its also stubbornly ambiguous at times and potentially maddening. It's not a film you can fully "get" on a first or second viewing, if at all, but that's not to say that it doesn't have intense and immediate pleasures and gifts to offer, if one is willing to receive.
On Monday morning, Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life was seen for the first time in public, at its monumentally anticipated premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. At long last, after years of delays and steadily building hype, Life was seen by its first public audience.
Throughout World, Malick's fourth film, trees are an essential image and metaphor. Early in the film, trees anchor the boats as the European colonists arrive. At the end, tree comprise the final shot. We look upward at a towering cathedral of trees, and then the film ends with the delicate drop of a leaf.
With its emphasis on the duality of nature and by association man, Days of Heaven envelops us in the lack and loss of Paradise. As reflected in its title, heaven is temporal in the film—an all too evanescent state of dwelling. The film thus exudes a palpable Edenic yearning—a longing to recapture our lost wholeness of being. In the meantime, we are stuck in a world where the glory and avenging power in nature are both intensely evident—a troubling paradox in which, Malick infers, ultimate reconciliation can be achieved only in death.
More than simply a morality tale couched in 1960s post-war nihilism, Badlands is a timeless tale of the human search for significance and the resultant battle between rebellion (pride/significance through freedom of the will) and redemption (humbly submitting to something bigger and recovering that union with creation and the Creator).
I've declared May to be Terrence Malick Month. On my blog at least.
There are films to be excited about, and there are films to be EXCITED about. Then there are films that one’s entire life waits years—even decades—for. Or maybe that’s just me. In any case… such a film is coming soon, and it’s directed by Terrence Malick (the most mysterious and brilliant living filmmaker). It’s called Tree of Life.