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The Tree of Life

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This film affects people in very different ways. It is called The Tree of Life. I saw it the other evening rather accidentally. The great wind storm had come through our area last Friday night, knocking down trees, including one of our big oaks and some smaller trees, which knocked out power. Walter and I were able to find a hotel about 40 miles south of home, where we stayed until the power was restored four days later. All is well, as the big tree did not fall on our house, and we have plenty more trees. We were lucky to be able to be in an air-conditioned place during those days, to have a swimming pool, and to have chanced into this film on HBO at the hotel.

It is a modern and ancient integrated view of human existence exquisitely crafted. I heard in it some faint echoes of Plotinus and of Leibniz, and certainly it shines some biblical vistas and values. It is not agreeable in its messages, at least not altogether, with my philosophy or that of other people here. It is very agreeable in message, I would wager, with millions of viewers who regard themselves as spiritual (and likely liberal). I would urge anyone here to see this film for the experience of it—much of it wonderful for you I hope—and for seeing also to what in its very center, in human nature, Ayn Rand was and is offering a new vision. Imagine such talent and technology brought round to inspiring audiences by vision of man with step that travels unlimited roads, man as the glory of all the forces that led to his existence, his sacred existence, here where is human value, here home in the cosmos where is human life and death and love.


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My impression of the film was mixed. It was emotionally moving at times, but it's message was conventional and ultimately uninspiring. Sean Penn is one of my favorite actors (not people). I was impressed by the way the film combined cinematography and score. That sort of talent put to different themes could be cathartic.

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I thought this was one of the worst films I have ever seen. Sure, it had some nice cinematography and music at times, but these do not make a film. It wandered aimlessly without a coherent plot, with the characters seemingly just a distraction to their surroundings.

To me, the film suggested that reality is unknowable and unreal, and existence is futile. It seemed like it was trying to show some transcendental ideas or emotions of some sort -- and, indeed, I found it to be a perfect embodiment of Kantianism. This isn't surprising, as Malick is strongly influenced by Heidegger, if I'm not mistaken.

I don't mind some of Malick's older films, however. If I wasn't familiar with his past work, I probably would have walked out of the cinema during this film.

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Things to Come


We watched this 1936 film recently. Raymond Massey (who played Gail Wynand in the Fountainhead film thirteen years later) delivers lines like “Why have we left it all to the fools and brutes?” Sound familiar?

Edited by Boydstun
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