Narrative and Experiment, Religion and Politics in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life
Journal for Religion, Film and Media
Russell C. Powell
While most interpretations of Terrence Malick's 2011 The Tree of Life concentrate on the film's theological resonances, I focus here on The Tree of Life's political vision. I locate this vision in the fraught relationship between two influential strands of American religio-political thought, Augustinianism and Emersonianism. The Tree of Life's theological concerns are undoubtedly Augustinian, yet it takes up a similar radical politics as what Emerson did in his best-known essays. The result, I argue, is a cinema of religio-political possibility with important implications for a potential rapproachment between religionists (namely evangelical Christians) and secularists, particularly on the topic of environmental conservation and sustainability.