Theological reflections on Terrence Malick's Tree of Life
Volume 119 of the Journal featured an interview with theologian Peter Leithart on the topic of empire criticism. As readers of his First Things blog will know already, Leithart’s expertise is certainly not limited to political theology, or even to theology in general. He has proven himself well versed in things philosophical and literary, and with last year's publication of Shining Glory: Theological Reflections on Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, he demonstrated his ability as a film critic.
Examining the film from a distinctly theological perspective, Leithart unpacks many of the key themes of the film, showing them to be part of a complex and coherent whole. Leithart is, admittedly, not an unbiased critic; in his preface he describes the film as “one of the most beautiful films I had ever seen, drenched in prayer, shot-through with the biggest questions that we humans pose about our lives and our world, more philosophically and theologically sophisticated than any film I knew.”
If you’ve seen the film already, you’ll know that it is the type of film that demands helpful commentary such as this (and multiple viewings!) in order to grasp its full significance. Shining Glory is a short and enlightening read – and it is always encouraging to realize how thoroughly Christian and theologically rich an incredible work of art like Tree of Life really is.