“The Tree of Life”
I saw Terrence Malick’s film last evening, spurred in part by Geoffrey O’Brien’s review in The New York Review of Books. O’Brien writes:
The film’s portentous epigraph is the grandest question of all, God’s challenge to Job—”Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?”—the ultimate instance of answering a question with a question. Malick has never shied from grandiosity, and in The Tree of Life more than ever before he risks the humorless and overblown. Into what might in other hands have been the small-scale, melancholy tale—too elliptical even to be called a tale—of the not unusually eventful childhood of a boy in Texas, his two brothers, and his father and mother, he has managed to incorporate the creation of the universe, the origins of life on earth, the age of dinosaurs, and the prospect of future dissolution, with musical accompaniment by the powerful tonalities of Berlioz’s Requiem Mass. But he has made an audacious and magnificent film.
Then, celebrating the feast of Saint Bonaventure this morning, I recalled that Bonaventure has a short work of spiritual theology, entitled: “The Tree of Life.” Towards its conclusion he writes:
No one reaches the state of beatitude except through a final union with Him who is the foundation and origin of goods both natural and supernatural, both bodily and spiritual, both temporal and eternal. He it is who says of himself: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End!” As all things are brought forth through the Word eternally uttered, so through the Word made flesh all things are restored, impelled, brought to fulfillment.
I have no idea, of course, whether Malick knows the writings of Bonaventure, though O’Brien reports that he studied philosophy at Harvard and has translated Heidegger. So it’s certainly possible.
In any case, am I right in hearing, during the film’s compelling final scene, the refrain from the “Agnus Dei” of the Berlioz “Requiem:” “Dona eis requiem sempiternam?”