Jul 6, 2011

Tree of Life

Image by dynamosquito via Flickr Creative Commons
Two nights ago I saw the movie Tree of Life. I expected it to be pretentious and boring, but I actually loved it. LOVED it.

The feeling was not universal. As the credits went up at the end there was an audible "Oh thank Christ!" exhaled from two seats over. And I'd say it's a film you either love or hate.

The imagery in the film is so beautiful, and the symbolism and themes are so simple, that the whole thing is gorgeous and easy to watch.

There is a wonderful speech by a church minister a little way in, about the fragility of life and happiness, which sets the tone for the whole film. It's a beautiful and true speech and as the camera pans over the congregation you see the understanding on every face, taking in these words.

The life of a family is played out against the backdrop of the life of the earth, the development of life and its sudden end compared with the rhythms of the sea and the volcano. It's a truly amazing film.

The only quibble I have is with the portrayal of the mother. Yet another beautiful, patient, calm, serene, selfless, (and ageless) perfect mother, as remembered by her son. It's a cliche, and badly overdone in film especially. I get that it's partly someone's memories, and it's also a life portrayed in snapshots of time; it doesn't pretend to be a full picture. But this character, lovely as she is, does appear to be a perfect wife and mother, floating happily through her life and her feelings, wanting nothing more, and being nothing more, than available perfection to her family.

So what's the deal - do all men remember their mothers as saints?
It's a common theme. Picture the hard-worn man at the bar,  "My mother was a saint." Knock back shot of whiskey, bang glass on table, blink back tears. "A saint." Murmurs of agreement all round, the next round a toast to everyone's saintly mothers.

How do daughters remember their mothers?

How will my daughters remember me?
"My mother was always available for us, and always listened"?
"My mother was always working, she was never around"?
"My mother worked hard and taught us to be independent"?
"My mother made up rhymes and songs for us and showed us the wonder of language"?
"My mother was always so tired"?
"My mother was a shrieking harridan who made our lives miserable"?

Who knows - probably none of these (certainly hope not the last), or maybe a combination of them and other things that they see in me, that I don't see in myself.

I hope I am creating good memories for them.

And I hope, when they look back, that they always know that they were loved. Everything else is a bonus.



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