THE TREE OF LIFE
Many movie reviews of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life have no idea what this movie means or what the plot is. Literally, they say it. I’m not making a judgment of them. They say they don’t understand it.
Here’s my take on it. I believe I understand it, in my own way, but it’s a very abstract movie, perhaps one of the most abstract movies I’ve ever seen. I think there is indeed a plot and character arcs, which is basically a world transitioning between nature and grace. I’d like to explain it in terms of topics, separately, and then if and when you see the movie again, perhaps these topics will come together.
KABBALAH, as one example.
Many ancient cultures have the “tree of life” as a story or symbol. I haven’t looked into them all, but this one in particular seems fitting. In the basic tree of life in Kabbalah, there are about 10 things on the basic tree of life diagram called sephirot that break down where you are in life and what everything means in the big picture. Two of the sephirot in the middle left and right represent kindness (loving grace, mercy, inspiring vision) and severity (strength, judgment, intention, withholding, disciplinary). Perhaps the mother and father characters in the film are representative of something like this. Where they meet in the middle is a sephirot called truth and beauty. Meaning, because of free-will you may sway between the kindness and severity and lean towards one of them, but when you understanding how to balance, you’ve found your own truth, and that’s a beautiful thing. That being said, it all sounds simple in a chart, but I think we all have to go through it, individually and as a species, to fully understand it, feel it, know it, I think. The film makes it relatable in the form of the main boy Jack torn between his father and mother‘s ways, but it’s really a story of the way everything in the universe is like that, too.
Up and down the Kabbalah tree of life are sephirot that go from base vegetable level to animalistic tribal to human soul to upper godlike and spiritual. It’s like the Hindu chakra system. Here’s a better explanation.
A lot of Terrence Malick’s films are about the loss of innocence, so I think that works with this idea as well. First, the boys are boys; innocent. Then the main boy, Jack acts out and does some not-so-innocent things, and he narrates that’s he confused and wrestles with the father and mother figures, and that he wants to “get back.” Getting back to innocence, perhaps.
MATRIARCHAL vs. PATRIARCHAL
Take ancient Egypt. Carmen Boulter’s The Egypt Code suggests the Egyptians were matriarchal and then became patriarchal. “Matriarchy is not the opposite of patriarchy, with women dominating and controlling men. It is based on balance between the masculine and feminine and harmony with nature.” Men of high status had women’s wigs, men and women together side by side with woman’s arm around the man. It was more of a rule of equality. I think we, humans, have been used to and only seen patriarchal ways since the times of patriarchal Egypt, and it’s coming to a head. Today's global society is so service-to-self and war-mongering that I think the reaction pretty soon will be more matriarchal, not as in there being a woman president or something necessarily, but more service-to-others, more cooperation, consideration of others -- a grace. I think Malick knows this grand ebb and flow of humanity throughout time. Things go in cycles.
TIME/SPACE AND HISTORY
You probably would have to buy into the theory that time/space isn’t linear - that past-present-future exists all at once. Maybe that’s why the film’s structure is a little out of order. But even a Tarantino film is out of order and still makes sense. We tend to think in our day to day activity and count the minutes going by. The ancient civilizations like the Mayans and Egyptians thought bigger, much bigger. They made stone structures that would last thousands of years, longer than their own lifetimes. Can we put our head around that? But our tendency is to think mini, not macro. We need a paradigm shift. There will be a paradigm shift.
When you learn and do research into many different topics (knowledge that the vast libraries the mystery schools and secret societies, and knowledge mankind is slowly "re-discovering" today), it becomes clear that everything is interconnected. The universe is made with a purpose. From the planets to people -- planetary alignments affect earth changes. You know the sun and moon affects the tides. Planetary alignments affect human behavioral cycles. I think ancient civilizations all over the world knew this, and tracked the stars and planets with their stone monuments and structures. Learn about yugas. Learn about the Age of Aquarius, not just a song. All the cosmic activity going on in the movie is affecting human behavior and society. From a generation to the next, one might see a change. A generation in the ‘50’s are different from the next generation.
Polarity, like positive and negative in electricity, like pistons on a machine, ebb and flow, a revolutionary movement is a reaction against what came before, the universe is cyclical, but also spiral. We repeat behaviorial cycles, but we learn slightly more if we learn from our mistakes, if we all learn history, and aim towards perfection. I think the mass consciousness of the world is coming to a head. I think, I know, the ones who aren’t asleep, the ones who gain knowledge about the way the world really works will come to a beautiful truth.
Brad Pitt's character says, "Someday we'll fall down and weep, and we'll understand it all -- all things."
In “western” culture, we don't look at all things. We should. We’ve mostly have been brought up to see things as literal, grounded in the physical world, things only exist in what we can see, touch, taste, feel, etc. A lot has to do with the “western” society’s way of imposing a way of thinking and interpretation of religion and science, as opposed to true inner spirituality and creativity in science. Religion is political; they all believe theirs is the right one. Spirituality is macro. Spirituality, I think, was more evident in “eastern” or native american or other such ancient cultures. I think ancient cultures came from a time when their planetary alignment made them able to understand things more abstractly, more other worldly, interdimensionally. Scientists are "re-discovering" that now. When we learn from our past, when we learn all there is to know about EVERYTHING, we can take the next step through the door to next step to human society, human evolution. They say Buddha did it. They say Krishna did it. They say Jesus did it. I think a few have paved the way to show that every human can be capable of it -- enlightenment. The mother is floating in the air. Older Jack goes through a door. Everyone is together reunited on the beach. Heaven? The rapture? Ascension to multiverse. Reuniting with pure consciousness. Unified field. It’s your truth. You find it. Do I believe it? Doesn't matter. It's what I think the film is about. Also, David Lynch.
I think the reason why this film won Cannes Palme d’Or is that a lot of the rich and elite are masons, Kabbalah, or one or another of the many offshoot secret societies [that are keepers of knowledge of the ancient mystery religions, mystery school teachings, the Egyptians, druids, Mayans, essenes, Indians, etc (I’m talking pre-judeo-christian-islam)]. It’s that so much of it is there on screen, the same way 2001: A Space Odyssey is. They completely understand these concepts. (see my 2001: A Space Odyssey decon below) And they will continue to give it more awards. Personally, I think the film's heart was in the right place, but it was a little too pretentious, a little too "Malick," but that's my movie review opinion. The idea of it was brave. It was challenging. It will be influential.