I’ve fallen in love with a movie trailer. I’m serious. I’m fighting back tears. I haven’t seen the movie yet, called The Tree of Life. It opens this Friday in New York and L.A., and Atlanta a week later. But I’m mesmerized by this trailer, and by what I’ve read about the film. Over scenes of cosmic creation and human birth, a woman’s voice says, “There are two ways through life: the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow.”
You had me at grace!
The writer and director is Terrence Malick, and the film won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes this year. Of course, from what I read in the New York Times, its debut there was decidedly mixed. Some members of the audience booed loudly. In other words, it’s probably awesome!
Here’s an excerpt from Roger Ebert’s review. While I don’t share his theological outlook on the efficacy of prayer, I want what he says about this movie to be true.
Many films diminish us. They cheapen us, masturbate our senses, hammer us with shabby thrills, diminish the value of life. Some few films evoke the wonderment of life’s experience, and those I consider a form of prayer. Not prayer “to” anyone or anything, but prayer “about” everyone and everything. I believe prayer that makes requests is pointless. What will be, will be. But I value the kind of prayer when you stand at the edge of the sea, or beneath a tree, or smell a flower, or love someone, or do a good thing. Those prayers validate existence and snatch it away from meaningless routine.
I didn’t stumble upon this film on my own. I had never heard of Terrence Malick before reading about him in an article by one of my favorite theologians, David Bentley Hart. I watched The Thin Red Line on Netflix over the weekend.