Tree Of Life – We live in deeds and meditate in grief

Posted: July 31, 2011 by moifightclub in cinema, Gods of Cinema
Tags: ,

She used to be a teacher in an ICSE board school. But her kids were sent to another school where most Officers’ kids used to go. Her husband was a Chartered Accountant, and as most bongs like to flash their CA degree, he was no different. As kids, we always thought snob quotient was just for the Roys. And then one day her daughter lost an eye accidentally. A death in the family followed. She was no longer part of the Officers’ Wives club. Searching for answers, she found solace in my Granny’s words, whose life used to revolve around all the 33crore Hindu Gods. Some of them were family members too. She was searching for answers – why it happened to her daughter? She was the prettiest of them all, the mother always talked about her, a matter of pride. With an eye gone, it was a cruel joke on her beauty. And why that sudden death?

Ironically, the kids were inspired by Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan and were trying the tricks with homemade bows and arrows when one of the arrow hit her eye. With kids and Gods, its difficult to put the blame on anyone. If only she was careful, it could have been averted. The thought never left her. Family member’s death disturbed her more. She was restless till the complete transformation happened. She found a Guru, sandalwood tilak followed and prayer beads inside a small bag became her constant companion.

As kids with curious minds, it was baffling to notice the change. Mr. R had mellowed down too. Grief does strange things to us. Add guilt to it, and it’s difficult to cope with. A friend of mine stays away from civilisation, in the jungles of Mcleodganj. It’s been more than two decades, he still holds himself responsible for his brother’s suicide. His conversation with his father is limited, as he was the one who in a moment of rage had pointed out that the culprit was my friend. It pierced the young heart and hasn’t left it since then. As he struggles with his writing, voluntary work for an NGO and relationship issues, most of his nights are spent drinking till wee hours of morning.

Arun Shourie took another extreme route. He explored religion scriptures, went to all the Godmen and spiritual Gurus to find the answer to his son’s suffering. Conclusion – suffering refutes religion. It’s all in his new book, Does He Knows A Mother’s Heart. Click here to read excerpts from the book. And click here to see a video interview of his where he explains his beliefs and thought process.

Terrence Malick’s Tree Of Life is all this and much more.

His fifth film in the last four decades or so. If you are familiar with his work, the elements are all there. The sun, green, nature, insects, birds, water, life, death, birth, suffering and those meditative voice-overs. I believe Malick started pondering over those existential questions in its entirety from The Thin Red Line. In a world where you have to map the plot points after every 20 pages for the Hollywood Studios to green light your film, it’s a brave new world that Malick has been able to create. And voice-overs that don’t follow any pattern or technique. With Tree Of Life, he goes to the extreme. If it was possible to attach a camera to your thoughts when you are coming to terms with the death of someone close to your heart, this film captures all that and puts it out on the big screen. Do you think or dream in a linear fashion? The camera attached to the thoughts floats in the universe as your mind ponders over everything possible, and Malick tells an intimate story of hate, grief, guilt and redemption in that background.

In one of the most brutally honest sequence that i have ever seen on the big screen, young Jack contemplates if he can kill his father with just a single trick. And he will be safe because his revenge will look like an accident. My heart skipped a beat there because i was worried about the old Jack then, guilt would have killed him so ruthlessly. Keep all the morality aside, think if you ever felt the same during your growing up years. And may be that’s why we had a chapter in our Moral Education book where a son plans to kill his father because he is frustrated with his constant jibes about his son’s work. As the son is about to enter the father’s room, he overhears the conversation between his mother and father, she is comparing the son to the Moon but the dad says, even Moon has some black spots, his son doesn’t have any. The son breaks down.  In Tree Of Life, the son becomes the father. The son starts hating the father but he slowly transforms into him. He starts with mimicking him, and then dictating the world around him, just like his father. In that honesty, lies the brilliance of story telling. We all hate our dads for some reason, and yet, we all end up becoming like him. With the kind of comfort that mothers pampers us with, mostly they make it happen.

Tree Of Life needs complete submission. Its a meditative piece by a yogi filmmaker which transcends every possible limit set by this medium. Just go with lil’ patience, you might get lost at many places, like I did, but just let it all flow. You will come back to Malick for sure. Don’t worry on that part. And even if you don’t, its good to be lost in your thoughts once in a while

With Jack, we float in his thoughts, his world, his world view, his guilt and finally some redemption which is pure consolation. Because we all eventually make peace with ourselves at some point, create a new world in our thoughts/dreams and make it comfortable for our soul. The soul-shuddhi needs time and space. Seems Malick too did the same with this film as this Guardian article points out that his brother, Larry, committed suicide in Spain while studying guitar under the teacher Andrés Segovia in 1968. Umesh Kulkrani did his with Vihir.

I’m struggling with mine. How long will my Mcleodganj friend take, am not sure. And you?

  1. jhonmoy says:

    I hope this isn’t the only article on this film. There’s so much more..

  2. bksingh2009 says:

    The thing that caught my attention the most was the portrayal of “Joy and Happiness” and that of “grief”. I somehow felt that all those greif moments were hurried and the moments of Joy took its own sweet time to move on in the movie…Given the kind of people that I interact with on a day to day basis, I see that the reverse is true for most people out here. The moments of Joy are hurried and moments of grief just lingers on…
    There is a lot lot more to this movie and I am not sure if I will ever be able to fully understand this movie..

  3. felinei says:

    Royally sucks to see the lack of proper theatrical release for such a film, it deserves an imax release..kudos to PVR though

    .What do audiences love nowadays??? seeing actor porn like ready, singham,bodyguard,dabang???

  4. After reading your meditation, except for a paragraph containing (maybe) the spoiler, I couldn’t digest something that begins with words like “Brad Pitt is superb as a grieving father.”
    Guilt never leaves you. And I’m struggling to leave mine behind.
    Someone asked me when we were watching Lynch the documentary where the filmmaker discourses on the method of creation in the field of art:
    “Can a work of art borne with guilt and suffering result in a positive energy—which the men so much need?”
    Though the idea is that we’re positive at the core, does this affect the quality of our output?
    Without getting into the trap of describing what positive truly means, I’d now leave you with your brooding.

  5. cinamahaulj says:

    aap lagatar likha karein…

  6. aap lagatar likha karein.

  7. assman says:

    Saw The Tree of Life for the second time last evening and the whole idea of the film became more clear. I connected a few more threads from what was left from the first watch. When i came out of the theatre it was a completely different feeling from the first time. First time it was more of a film fails to tell a story but I was engulfed in calm amid cacophony as the metaphysical questions of existence to over my mind. The creation of universe sequence in the film was brilliantly done and its a prime example of images coming together with music/sound and the experience is magical. It has to be experienced in a dark movie hall. During the sequence I was lost on my own thoughts though being conscious of what was happening on screen. The questions began to rise. Whats our place in universe? How tiny and insignificant we are in this ever-expanding creation. Yet we refuse to realize this basic face and continue to inflict sadism on fellow humans and other creatures. The wars and money ain’t worth it.

    “There are two ways to live. The way of nature and the way of grace.” This voice-over holds special significance. Malick portrays the nature and creation as masculine, which is against our common perception of it being feminine. We all call it mother nature. The way of nature is very ruthless and destructive, the law it follows is ‘survival of the fittest’, Brad Pitt teaches the same lesson to his kids. He is father and nature. And the mother provides the tender love, grace and kindness. Is it like, we have a home/shelter and its run by mother, you get all love and acceptance. When you go out in the world you face the way of nature, the struggle, you have to be fit to survive.

    Coming back to the big-bang sequence. It was juxtaposed with the Brad pitt getting news about the death of his son. We didn’t see the death, it remained unexplained, which was again brilliance on part of Malick. I reckon, when someone close to you dies you ponder over it a lot and think how did they die. It remains unexplained to the person who sees death. My friend made an interesting point over the big-bang, he interpreted it as the grief which(people feel at loss) is as enormous as the whole universe or they experience the loss of their universe. The small universe that people live in. Or was it the cyclic nature of creation?

    I became very calm in my mind after the second watch, almost lost like Sean Penn in the film. Didn’t feel like doing anything or speaking for a couple of days. Most films tell certain things, answer few questions or do nothing at all, this one will make you ponder. My other friend with whom I saw for the first time thought, the films was a failure as failed to say a story. But, instead it would also pose a question what should the cinema be? Will try to catch it again before it escapes theaters here in LA.

    ps: please let go the typos, grammar or lack of structure

  8. […] We live in deeds and meditate in grief by moifightclub […]

  9. Very nice. Sabki wahi kahaani hai…sabne apne aas-paas ke toot-te girte logon aur apne darkest fears se jod ke dekha film ko. I had consciously avoided reading anything till now to finish my own piece…bas ek nazar daali thi tumhaare iss article par aur usmein woh lines dikh gayi jo use kar li. 🙂

    The most unique point in your piece: “We all hate our dads for some reason, and yet, we all end up becoming like him. With the kind of comfort that mothers pampers us with, mostly they make it happen.” Totally brilliant! Have seen it in all my friends and myself so many times.


    Very good points there.

  10. […] Tree Of Life – We live in deeds and meditate in grief She was a teacher in an ICSE board school. But her kids were sent to another school where most Officers’ kids used to go. Her husband was a Chartered Accountant, and as most bongs like to flash their CA degree, he was no different. Source: […]

  11. […] Tree Of Life – We live in deeds and meditate in grief She was a teacher in an ICSE board school. But her kids were sent to another school where most Officers' kids used to go. Her husband was a Chartered Accountant, and as most bongs like to flash the… Source: […]

  12. […] हमेशा ज़रूरी भी नहीं. ********************** Further Reading: We live in deeds and meditate in grief by moifightclub Of irretrievable memories by Aprajita Sarcar Layered surrealities (Film review) by […]

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