METAPHYSICS & MOVIES — The Tree of Life & The Nature of Suffering

The controversial Terrence Malick film The Tree of Life  should be seen by the metaphysician-at-large who enjoys the artistic pursuit of truth.  I'm just not sure this film will bring the long awaited enlightenment you seek.

It was greeted with boos and cheers at the Cannes Film Festival at which it won the coveted Palme d'Or awarded.  I can understand why.

It is a visual masterpiece.  An obvious homage to Stanley Kubrick's 2001 but it is, at times, tedious and obscure.  The style is different, as is the acting styles.  Presumablythat was Malick's intention.

Reviews I have read range from outright orgasmic ( A.O. Scott, NYTimes) to far less than impressed (Rex Reed).

It is about growing up in the fifties, facing the death of a brother, family relationships and the existential dilemma we all face–is their a reason for suffering?

There is a quote from the Book of Job at the opening of the film and it sets the tone.  Job suffered without clear reason.  He was a good man and did not appear to "warrant" what happened to him and his family.  When questioning God as to the reason, he was emphatically told that the answer was beyond his capacity to know.

We would all like to believe that we can defer or put off our own suffering through our actions.  Karma does seem a far better way to structure the universe than the notion of original sin that is expiated by belief and faith in a messiah.

Yet karma itself is a complex notion.  Perhaps our past lives do play a role in what occurs in this one.  Perhaps our souls accept what appears to be disproportionate suffering in this life in order to challenge itself to overcome what it encounters and evolve.

Although flawed the film deserves the attention it has received and the discussions which have followed. 

It forces us to confront the often painful and unsatisfying truth–that the mystery remains.

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