After losing both of my parents in a matter of 2 months, I'm now more than ever reflecting upon the transience of life and what remains when everything is done. The Tree of Life.
The Tree of Life is a film by Terrence Malick whose earlier work has exhibited an ethereal quality--grass blowing in the wind, long takes of actors staring across empty fields, etc. I'm not sure how to describe this movie. Is it a montage, a series of vignettes, moody, emotive? But more important than what it says are the questions the film forces us to ask:
What is this about? Where's the story?
--spoiler--it has no traditional storytelling arc.
Tree of Life is flash memoir. Moments. Ordinary. Riven. Island. A mother's voice. A father's criticism. The look from a younger brother. Trust. Betrayal. It is about the threads of life that weave in and out of all of us.
I couldn't stop thinking that the house in the film reminded me of my Aunt Jane's house in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. I remember climbing the creaky stairs up to the second floor and peeking into her bedroom while she slept--bald as a jaybird, her wig resting on a mannequin head. It was said she'd lost all her hair, traumatized over the death of her youngest son from leukemia.
We drove past Aunt Jane's house after the graveside service for my mother last week. The street was narrower than I'd remembered, the house small compared to two-story houses of today, and the backyard shed was gone. As we drove by I heard whispering, the voice of the mother and son from The Tree of Life:
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. You were made from dust, and to dust you will return.