From Catholic News Service:"'The Tree of Life' is lovely, but misses metaphysical truth http://t.co/AGK4zim "
This review is a truly tragic misrepresentation of this most amazing film. What's even sadder is that this is an "official" review on the U. S. Bishops website! www.usccb.org/movies
This review reflects a kind of "witch hunt" mentality of some Catholics when they view movies (scrounging for all the ways a film might possibly NOT synch with the Catholic Faith, and instead of stretching towards benefit of the doubt and how it COULD possibly synch with the Catholic Faith, they choose to set up an opposition). This review feels like a facile, surface take on one of the most potentially faith-inducing, faith-retrieving movies I have ever seen in my life.
The author of this review had the same misgivings I did at first about a possible antagonism between "nature and grace," but as you can see in my review http://hellburns.blogspot.com/2011/05/movies-tree-of-life.html that's not how the movie plays out.
To facilely call this movie "New Age," as the author of this review does, is just wrong. "New Age" seems to be the favorite Post-it Note that is swiftly slapped on anything that emphasizes God's Creation! THAT'S creating a true dichotomy between nature and grace!!! And THAT is very, very dangerous business. One name for it is "Cartesianism" and we have been dealing with its horrible fragmenting repercussions for the past 500 years. Blessed John Paul II's antidote? "Theology of the Body" which he calls "the long-awaited answer to rationalism [a form of Cartesianism]." BJP2G roots his theology firmly in God's visible, tangible, concrete Creation as the starting point for all philosophy and theology. And this is nothing new. The Church has always said that "Nature is God's first book of Revelation." Terrence Malick--writer/director of "Tree of Life"--is definitely not a New-Ager: for all the many nature scenes it sports, the movie is most definitely about the human--the interior, moral life of the human being and the dominance of family life in human relationships. (If you watch his other films, you'll see how much he uses nature in them.)
There seems to be an inordinate fear among many religious people, especially Christians, that if nature is lovingly gazed upon or its beauty appreciated and accented, it will become the object of worship. So "just in case," we must condemn any Creation-affirming vehicles. I think it's part of a larger "let's always err on the side of negativity, seeing things in the worst possible light, the worst case scenario of the possible intentions of the artist." I have heard on Catholic radio the condemnation of being "green" and almost repudiating any kind of attention paid or attempts at conserving the environment, even saying that Pope Benedict was going too far in installing solar panels at the Vatican and speaking up about global warming. St. Ignatius--in his "Spiritual Exercises"--prescribes a very different attitude. Basically he states that charity (without being naive or pollyanna or gullible) requires us to construe intentions in the best possible light, to find the points of assent to truth in what our neighbor has to say.
To miss the aesthetical ethics of a masterpiece such as "Tree of Life" might only serve to confirm the belief of many artists and art-lovers that Catholics are rigid, blind, self-righteous, small-souled, sin-obsessed philistines.
To call "Tree of Life" "spiritual but not religious" is just inaccurate!!! The film starts with a A QUOTE FROM THE BIBLE--Job, to be specific. The family goes to a Catholic church--more than once!!! We see Brad Pitt make the Sign of the Cross and genuflect toward the Tabernacle!!! There's a stained glass window of Jesus while the voice over talks about His suffering!!! There's an awesome homily preached by a Catholic priest!!! The family prays grace at meals!!! The mother teaches the little boy that God lives in the sky!!! The soundtrack doesn't just "sound like" sacred music--there's an "Agnus Dei" in there! The little boy talks to GOD!!! (Oh, and it's very pro-life.) If "Tree of Life," can't "please the Church," I fear there is no "pleasing the Church!"
The reviewer makes mention of Malick's "agnosticism." I don't know what faith/non-faith Malick has, but I will tell you that Malick's "agnosticism" makes a lot of believer's faith PALE BY COMPARISON. True, an artist's own beliefs always influence their work, but Malick could have fooled me that he was an agnostic, and if anything, he's siding with FAITH here.
"Tree of Life" is a movie event that comes along once in blue moon. It must be seen in the theater to be fully appreciated and it would be a shame if this negative review keeps Catholic movie-goers away. And I would call it a "blessed" event because of how it is going to touch people at their core and give them permission to celebrate the faith they have, polish it off and take it out of the closet and bring it into the magnificent light of God's glory, or at least give them every reason to "seek Him," and God willing, "find Him."
"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." --Jeremiah 29:13 NIV
"And they will praise his holy name to proclaim the grandeur of his works." --Sirach 17:10 RSV
FR. ROBERT BARRON'S REVIEW: http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/religion_theseeker/2011/05/tree-of-life-is-film-about-god.html