Religion In Terrence Malick's The Tree Of Life

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Brilliant minds over the centuries have used art as a way to explore big ideas and questions. In Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (2011), he experimented with numerous religious ideas surrounding an archetypal family in 1950s Texas. Brad Pitt portrays the strict patriarch of the O’Brien family, who acts as though he fills the role of god on earth. Jessica Chastain plays the nurturing and angelic Mrs. O’Brien and is a foil to Pitt’s stern portrayal. Jack O’Brien, the eldest son, struggles with his faith throughout the film as well as the role of God in his life. Throughout the film, Malick is able to use the underscoring, music and visuals together in order to support the film’s themes of religion and faith. The viewer is first introduced…show more content…
Jack O’Brien, their eldest is “divided within: drawn to the simplicity and joy of his mother, he envies [his younger brother] for being so much like her; at the same time he grasps that this envy, and the rage it engenders, make him more like his father” (Kilby 13-14). This inner turmoil causes him to have a strained relationship with God, which in turn makes logical sense why he would also have a strained relationship with his father: a man who tries to be a god in his life. Jack also has many voice-overs which “articulate his relationship with God, in questions and statements that evoke those Job posed to God: ‘Who are we to you? Answer me.’” (Kilby 15). One voice-over that stands apart is after Mr. O’Brien’s outburst in the kitchen. It is the moment when Jack asks, “Why does he hurt us, our father?” (Malick). The question can be read in two contexts: the first is in questioning his father’s actions, and the second, in questioning God’s. During Jack’s bout of rebellion and as he grows up, Jack finds more reasons to question his faith: his father’s unrelenting hardness, his mother’s toleration of his father’s behavior, the death of a childhood friend and guilt in a sexual awakening. It is a far cry from Jack’s unquestioning statement of “That’s where God lives” (Malick), earlier in the film. Jack simply tries to understand the role that faith and God must play in his life, as he is trapped beneath his “Father’s” oppressive gaze and his mother’s saintly guidance. His whispering voice-overs do not create an ethereal mood like his mother’s but rather creates one of a searching child who desperately does not wish to get caught questioning what has been taught of him over the

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