The following is a guest post written by Jeremy.
Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is the rare film that addresses God’s role in human events. Themes found in the book of Job permeate the story. Indeed, the film opens with the Lord’s question to Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” And after experiencing a personal tragedy, the central characters listen to a sermon from the book of Job, preaching that calamity falls upon the righteous, as well as the unrighteous.
In voice-over narration throughout the film, the characters talk to and question God. Like Job, the mother responds to her misfortune by asking where God is. God’s response in the film comes not through spoken words, but through a visually arresting sequence of God “la[ying] the earth’s foundation.” An operatic score accompanies images of the formation of the earth and eventually the beginning of life. God’s response is clear: Who is man to accuse the Creator?
Certainly, other films have referenced the book of Job. For instance, the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man found inspiration from Job. But where that film focused only on the questions addressed to God, Malick gives us at least a glimmer of God’s response.
Following the cosmos segment, The Tree of Life shifts focus to its human characters and explores other themes, like the influences of nature and grace. But chances are that, ten years down the road, the moments depicting the omnipotence and sovereignty of God will be the ones most well remembered.