Reconciling religion and evolution: The Tree of life

From an unpretentious and persuasive visual essay on the most debated movie of the year, The Tree of Life, by Matt Zoller Seitz

There is this central notion in all of Malick’s films that every individual person is just one tiny part of nature. Not too much more important in the larger scheme of things than an insect, or a blade of grass. It’s really not all that radical to state, but it’s one American audiences seem to have trouble accepting, because it’s anathema to the way we are told we should live our lives. And in this [evolution] sequence Terence Malick has done something quite remarkable, which is that he has reconciled religion and evolution. He has reconciled religion and science. 

That’s from the first part of the essay, which Seitz put together with a film editor collaborator. In the second part, which is much more beautiful, because it features the mother in the film, the most beautiful of its characters by about a country mile, he gets specific:

When we hear the mother speaking in voice-over, I think we’re hearing Jack’s projection of her internal voice, her overwhellming goodness, her unselfishness, her sunbeam warmth. Look at how she dotes on her infant child in this moment near the opening of the movie. She’s Mother Earth, much as “The Tree of Life” itself is Mother Earth.

“The Tree of Life” is the most debated movie of the year, because critics love it, by a 40-2 margin, and ordinary people often detest it.

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

2 thoughts on “Reconciling religion and evolution: The Tree of life

  1. And are you a critic or an “ordinary people”? Still haven’t seen the film but am totally looking forward to it. Wasn’t a fan of “Badlands” or “Days of Heaven” but did become a Malick cultist with “The Thin Red Line” and “The New World.” I think he’s the rare filmmaker who’s gotten better with age.


  2. Saw this movie a few months ago and can’t stop thinking about it, so I guess I’m in the critics camp. Will see it again this weekend, with any luck. Try to see it on the biggest possible screen. As the above critic notes, Malick brought Douglas Trumball (of “2001” and “Close Encounters” fame) out of retirement to create a lot of the birth of the universe effects, and boy, did he ever!


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