These are normally not tears of sorrow; but of joy, revelation, and beauty in life (e.g. Pixars's Up or Bollywood's 3 Idiots). I find this quite convenient because I am able to easily quantify my rating of movies. This is much more effective than trying to ascertain some ambiguous amount of stars after the fact.
The Tree of Life has set the bar mighty high for 2011.
This movie achieved tears on 6 separate occasions. To top it off, Elena and I had a long conversation after words which had us in tears again. And these were tears of the most powerful variety, tears of self-revelation.
Yes, The Tree of Life is beautiful, thoughtful, powerful, and moving.
But my one warning:
In the first half of the movie I guarantee you will experience a sense of being confused and lost. Be thoughtfully engaged, but be patient, letting the imagery wash over you. It's okay that nothing is "happening". The first half of the movie is a cleansing; washing away all of the baggage and distractions that you brought with you into the theater.
Trust that the first half of the movie is preparing the palate of your mind and soul; as would crackers and cheese prepare the palate of your mouth before tasting a fine wine.
When I go to see a Hollywood blockbuster I expect to be propelled from scene to scene at a breathtaking pace, constantly stimulated by the action, enraptured by the drama, distracted by the comedy, without an idle moment to be left with your own thoughts.
This is not a Hollywood blockbuster.
Go in to the theater with an attitude more akin to how you would enjoy an art exhibit or a symphony, but with all the sensory fullness of cinema.
So, without spoilers, what's the movie about?
The movie is all about understanding our relationship with our Creator God as something very broken/jaded while yearning for redemption. But it uses the most mundane of settings as a canvas - a family in 1950's small town USA.
Hunter McCracken. This kid is going places!)
The trailer (a work of art in and of itself) clearly alludes to this tension between father and mother.
"Mother, Father, always you wrestle inside of me. Always you will."...Metaphorically representing nature and grace.
"There are two ways through life. The way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you will follow."But this tension between nature and grace can be interpreted in many ways. I was reminded of a quote from Francis Schaeffer after first watching the trailer. It's short and worth the read. Now having seen the movie, I believe that definition is indeed consistent with the message of the movie.
I also find myself thinking of the movie as snapshots of defining childhood moments. This is where the powerful self-revelation comes in for me.
These snapshots are moments that relate to spirituality, understanding and questioning God, the realized loss of innocence, the raging evil of nature around us and within us while yearning for goodness. Other themes are shame, forgiveness, hypocrisy, compassion, regret, grace.
Anyone up for some Terrence Malick movie nights in the near future?
Next up... my reflection on why is the title The Tree of Life?