There is a movie every person will want to see this summer — and it’s not "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2."
It’s called “The Tree of Life,” and if you haven’t heard about it, that’s because it’s probably not in a theater near you. You might have to hunt to find it.
But the hunt will be well worth your time. That’s what my brother assured me when he called me up last week and said, “There is a movie you have to see, and you have to see it now.” He was right.
Despite the title, the film has nothing to do with the LDS Church, yet the movie's themes have everything to do with the gospel.
The director of the film, Terrence Malick, is famous for being extremely private and meticulous in his movie making. In his more than 40 years as a film director, he has directed only six movies. “The Tree of Life” was an idea he’s been working on for more than three decades.
You can see why it took him so long. In just a little more than two hours, Malick attempts to capture the scope of all eternity, starting with the Creation, moving through prehistoric time (yes, there are dinosaurs), and on through life, death and resurrection.
Yet the real beauty of the movie comes through the eyes of a 1950s family growing up in central Texas. Specifically, it captures childhood through the eyes of a pre-adolescent boy as he awakes to the simplicities and complexities of life. He struggles with the death of his brother, the borderline-abusive relationship with his father and his connection to God.
The movie doesn’t take any cheap shots. There are no drugs, no bedroom scenes (except one very innocent dabble into relationships with the opposite sex) and no curse words. In fact, there are not a lot of words at all. Most of the images are set to a soaring score of classical music.
This is not a movie that hands you life’s lessons on a silver platter. There is no, “And thus we see.” Which is why, for the typical movie-going audience, they may come away confused and frustrated. When the film concluded, the audience sat there for several minutes in stunned silence. The only other time I’ve seen such a reaction is when I saw “Schindler’s List.”
But as Mormons, we are used to extracting symbolism. We are certainly used to the powerful themes of forgiveness and love, which lace their way through the entire movie. Four days after the show, my husband and I are still discussing themes and connections.
I think an LDS audience will also appreciate the movie because it does what fine, noble art is supposed to do. It is truly a celebration of life in all its forms. As the New York Times film critic A. O. Scott wrote, "The sheer beauty of this film is almost overwhelming, but as with other works of religiously-minded art, its aesthetic glories are tethered to a humble and exalted purpose, which is to shine the light of the sacred on secular reality."
For me, who looks at all things through the lens of mother, the movie was a reminder of what childhood and life should be. When I stepped out of the theater, I was more aware of the humid air on my skin, the green of the grass. We’re so busy, you see, we forget these things.
I was reminded of how important it is for my children to have a self-awakening like the one in the movie. Nearly all of the film shots of children take place outside — there was no air conditioning to keep them huddled in on those hot summer days, and there were certainly no Legos or video games.
The movie made me want to capture some of that stillness that comes when you’re sent outside for the entire day to navigate the neighborhood social structure, your relationship with your siblings and the thoughts in your own mind.
More than anything, I came away wanting my husband and children to feel love — from the sky, the birds, the water, the people around them and, most of all, from their Father in Heaven.
So if you do one thing this summer, treat yourself to this movie. It won’t change your life. It will simply affirm everything you already knew.
Tiffany Gee Lewis writes humorous and thoughtful commentary on the life of a stay-at-home mother in her column, “From the Homefront,” which appears on MormonTimes.com on Tuesdays.
Follow her blog, "The Tiffany Window," at http://thetiffanywindow.wordpress.com
Follow her blog, "The Tiffany Window," at http://thetiffanywindow.wordpress.com.
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