"How Did I Lose You?":
Religious Questioning
in Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life

Americana: The Journal of American Popular Culture (1900-present), Spring 2018, Volume 17, Issue 1


Morgan Jefferson
Pepperdine University

In a career spanning over four decades, Terrence Malick has received consistent praise for his body of work and is regarded as one of the greatest living filmmakers, a considerable portion of the admiration for his films directed towards his use of vivid imagery and deeply philosophical themes. In addition to this acclaim, Terrence Malick's career has been described as odd, chiefly due to a twenty-year gap between Days of Heaven (1978) and The Thin Red Line (1998). His mysterious absence was riddled with rumors, musings, and speculations on the director's whereabouts, activities, psychological, and spiritual status. Michael Nordine argues Malick was working throughout the period on projects that simply went unproduced or unfinished, the latter “keeping with descriptions of Malick as a perfectionist who wanted to make a great film or no film at all." When he did reemerge with another film in 1998, he was not inclined to provide interviews as his longtime friend and journalist, Peter Bart, discussed in a Variety article not too long after the release of The Thin Red Line. Bart theorized several reasons as to why "Terry," as he calls him, refuses to talk, among them being that Malick "thinks auteurs sound fatuous and defensive when they try to explain themselves and their work, nor does he want to be asked why he did not make a movie for 20 years, because, to his way of thinking, that's nobody's business. Besides, he [probably] doesn't know the answer" (4). If Nordine is right, perhaps he just does not wish to share it.

Nonetheless, these oddities have not diminished the luster of Malick's reputation, as he has managed, in spite of the scantiness of his output, to maintain his stature as a genius. Indeed, the mystery surrounding the director has only enhanced the interest in Malick's life and work, particularly upon release of The Tree of Life (2011). Unquestionably his greatest work since The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life embodies how film is able to "transcend reason and introduces the enticing prospect that the images projected onto a cinema screen are equivalent to human and cultural elements" (Brereton and Furze 332). Beyond the transcendent experience of the film, Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life is the leading example of what films with Christian themes should aspire to be, as the film does not encourage an unwavering acceptance of religion, but rather emboldens the viewers to question their faith in order to form a deeper relationship with God. Furthermore, the film utilizes visuals as opposed to pontifical dialogue to capture the wonder of God's creation, in addition to illustrating the strengths and weaknesses of living one's life guided by grace or by nature, ultimately suggesting that one will still receive God's love, regardless of the path one chooses to take.

A significant portion of debate surrounding The Tree of Life rests on whether or not the Christian themes of the film are romanticized to the point of fantasy, as suggested by David Sterritt:

Terrence Malick’s eagerly anticipated The Tree of Life debuted at Cannes less than a week before the Rapture was to occur, according to a California evangelist whose prophecy was widely reported at the time…Americans are oddly vulnerable to this sort of nonsense – witness our eagerness to inject religion into debates over gay rights, stem-cell research, abortion, and other issues relating more to the flesh than to the spirit…the theology Malick embraces in The Tree of Life, while he does brilliant things with his narrative materials, tap[s] into a kind of American religiosity that specializes in affirming static traditions and shoring up reactionary mindsets. From the prayers at the beginning to the sermon in the middle and the vision of heaven at the end, Malick’s film is wrapped in a religiosity that secular humanists will find nostalgic and naïve. (52)

Sterritt's remarks reflect the increasing rejection of religion in society and, more specifically, in Hollywood, despite the success between then and now of Mark Burnett's The Bible series on the History Channel or the proliferation of other biblical productions such as The Passion of the Christ, The Shack, Ben-Hur (2016 version), Soul Surfer, Heaven Is for Real, Exodus: Gods and Kings, and Noah. In less than a century, religion has unquestionably found itself on the margins of the "mainstream" culture, having become, to many, an antiquated means of enforcing "Puritan" social mores. Society is not entirely to blame, as sectors of the religious that uphold a radically conservative vision certainly contribute to the decreased importance and significance of religion as well. In this context, Sterritt's skepticism is understandable; however, I would argue that the religious element of The Tree of Life is, in fact, the triumph of the film, as it is not a comprehensive acceptance of religion, but rather a questioning of its role in our lives, particularly a life filled with heartache and an inability to understand our circumstances, despite maintaining a strong moral compass.
Much of the voiceover in the film, be it Jack (Sean Penn), our teenage/adult protagonist, or his parents, Mr. O'Brien (Brad Pitt) and Mrs. O’Brien (Jessica Chastain), asks questions of God – questions that, if coming from a more traditionalist view of the Bible, would be chastised, for "my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV). In our initial introduction to adult Jack, we see a montage of him going through the day-to-day motions of life as an architect, his office building an imposing, stark white, sharply angular building devoid of warmth. In Malick's trademark use of voiceover, Jack asks God, “How did I lose you?” setting off a series of questions that run throughout the film across the nonlinear structure that moves fluidly in and out of flashback. In truth, adult Jack knows when he lost God, but perhaps has repressed the memory.

Young Jack (Hunter McCracken) and his two younger brothers, R.L. (Laramie Eppler) and Steve (Ty Sheridan), are at the community pool one summer when a neighborhood boy drowns. Despite Mr. O’Brien's attempt to revive the boy, he dies; in voiceover, young Jack says, "Was [the boy] bad? Where were you? You let a boy die. Why should I be good if you aren’t?" Although some could dismiss this despair as prototypical teenage angst, the questioning of the existence and presence of God is not restricted to young Jack; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. O'Brien have questions too. For example, Mr. O'Brien, the parent young Jack most closely mirrors, walks through the woods in one of the first sequences with him, a metaphor for being lost in the wilderness having turned away from the path God laid out for him. This image appears immediately after Mr. and Mrs. O'Brien learn of one of their son's death, Mr. O'Brien asking, "Lord, why?" This question is laced with both a frustration over how his own life turned out as well as a deep sense of guilt over how he treated his son as a child, lamenting that "[h]e wanted to play the piano with me, and I'd criticize how he'd turn the page. I made him feel shame."

Jack's father works at a plant doing we know not what, but we know he does not walk on water. He does play the piano at home and the organ at church (Bach's D minor Toccata and Fugue), and he platters up Brahms's Fourth Symphony during supper. We sense that his life has taken an early and wrong turn, one that cannot be undone. Perhaps he has not lived up to others' expectations of him. Perhaps he has shortchanged his own expectations of himself. Whatever life lessons he might have learned, whatever wisdom he might proffer, is couched in hypercriticism (Robbins 6). Despite "never miss[ing] a day of work [and] tithing every Sunday," Mr. O'Brien did not secure a single patent of his own or become a concert pianist, these disappointments manifesting in bouts of abusive rage – mostly verbal though occasionally physical – towards his children and wife, a woman who is unquestionably the most steadfast in her faith. According to Russell J.A. Kilbourn:

Mrs. O’Brien, appears to be a narrow type of piously suffering, perpetually beautiful, pre-feminist mother. This characterization is complicated, however, in one key sequence. Mrs. O’Brien twirls weightlessly in the air beneath a tree's spreading branches…perform[ing] a truly uncanny, gravity-defying dance in the summer air…Jack recalls his younger self listening to his mother's memory on an airplane flight, culminating in this levitation scene that seems to suggest the boy's desire to grant his mother a kind of freedom she never knew in her married life. (37)

Mrs. O’Brien, despite her outwardly devout disposition, is not without moments of despair that lead her to question God. After receiving the news of her son's death at the beginning of the film, she asks God, “Was I false to you?”, desperate for an explanation that, in truth, she knows she will never receive. This musing is surprising from her, given in the preceding sequence comprised of interconnected shots that depict her seemingly idyllic childhood and adult homelife, Mrs. O'Brien is positioned as an avatar for the "way of grace" and her husband for the "way of nature" – what some may posit as a nod to the Book of Job's teachings about the paths of righteousness versus wickedness. The Tree of Life is just secular enough in its outlook to avoid this incisive pairing because everyone in the film suffers – how they choose to confront their suffering is what differs. Mrs. O’Brien's faith may be shaken, as any parent's would be upon learning of a child's death, but she chooses to continue believing in God. She responds to the priest who comforts her by saying her son is "in God's hands now" by responding "[h]e was in God's hands the whole time."

While posing these difficult and seemingly unanswerable questions of faith throughout the film, Malick proposes his answer in the scene between R.L. and young Jack after the BB gun incident. Young Jack tells R.L. to place his finger over the opening on the BB gun, soothing him by saying, "I won't hurt you." R.L., a sweet, trusting boy, complies, only for young Jack to fire. Hurt (both physically and emotionally), R.L. runs off, Jack later apologizing in ways so delicate and inconspicuous that they are hard for an outsider to understand. R.L. forgives Jack for breaching his trust, young Jack saying in voiceover that "I didn't know how to name you then. But I see it was you. Always, you were calling me," suggesting that even in wrongdoing and suffering, God is there to provide comfort and guidance. Herein lies the genius of The Tree of Life, as it places its characters in extremely difficult circumstances – death, complex family dynamics, etc. – and allows them to question God, never offering "a justification for why God allows the innocent to suffer, [but] rather assur[ing] us of God's presence" (Manninen 1) through the simple acts of forgiveness, creating multifaceted characters that mirror the complexities and struggles for people in everyday life. In this way, the film examines the movement from "innocence to experience," a recurring theme in Genesis 1-11 (Robbins 2).

The Tree of Life offers a vision that is both intimate and enormous, combining elements of a middle-class family drama that disclose private moments of the O'Brien family in fragmented and non-chronological sequences with breathtaking visuals of explosive, cosmic spectacles, hurtling the viewer through space, into the depths of the ocean, and onto prehistoric shores, which all act as a metaphor for the origins of life and pose the question to the viewer from God: "Where were you when I created the universe?" The latter serves as the driving force behind the film. Malick uses strong visual elements in juxtaposition to a coming-of-age family drama in order to invoke a sense of divine wonder and a suggestion that despite our circumstances, God's creation and beauty surround us at all times.

The often-discussed cosmological sequence had been in Malick's mind since the late 1970s when he pursued a project called Q, which was to begin by illustrating the origins of life. According to Sterritt, "That imposing topic soon became the subject of the entire film, and Malick used his connection with Paramount Pictures to get cameras rolling around the globe, filming everything from volcanic activity at Mount Etna to ice shelves tumbling into Antarctic waters. Malick himself labored on the screenplay, which was described by an associate as 'pages of poetry, with no dialogue, glorious visual descriptions'" (Sterritt 53-54). Although abandoned at the time by Paramount, Q eventually became The Tree of Life, those "pages of poetry" becoming the "glimmers of unfathomable light, vast interstellar conflagrations, drifting throngs of stars, planets in their formless infancy, sun and moon occluded by dark storms, energizing jolts of lightning, gulping, primordial, pools, early plants, nascent creatures, slow-dancing, jellyfish, hammerhead sharks, a dinosaur lounging on the shore, an embryo’s eye, and, last but not least, a child being born – to a white-clad mother, who neither sweats nor shouts" (Robbins 8). Malick eschewed his originally more formal approach that would have prioritized isolated shots, choosing instead to engage the viewer with bursts of attentively covered emotion and energy through a vast anthology of recollections, with individual moments of feeling as though they have been seized from our own memory and experience.

These moments feel even more intimate when considered in relation to the physical setting. Malick captures the locales in Waco, Texas, with equal sensitivity to those captured in the creation sequence, steeping the visuals in Waco in the appearances of lower middle-class 1950s suburbia. As M. Gail Hamner explains:

Lubezki patiently and lovingly evokes mid-twentieth century suburban Texas (at least for white, middle-class viewers), and yet Malick's trademark style of editing – specifically, its inconsecutive images, lack of predictable narrative, and overlay of whispering voices – prevents the coalescence of these images into a claimed ownership of some hoped-for past. Quite the contrary occurs. By overlaying the fluid presentation of a Norman Rockwell-like childhood with questioning whispers of human grief, the film offers a viscerally disturbing presentation of the human condition – a mournful, frantic uncertainty that swirls within a familiar Hollywood-like presentation of beauty and love. (5)

Rather than dwelling on drab surroundings, worn-down possessions, or economic anxieties, The Tree of Life portrays houses, yards, dusty streets, and the commercial strip as flawlessly nondescript, allowing the poetry of the ordinary, the rhymes and rhythms of the run of the mill, to settle gently over the film. Furthermore, the shots in the domestic scenes are brief and unpredictable, the camera on the move as incessantly as the kids who run around playing, yet the predominant effect is "less flighty and distracted than dynamic and precise, blending the transitory and the enduring, the breathless and the timeless. From the standpoint of eternity, Malick poetically suggests the feeling of an instant and the meaning of a lifetime are interwoven parts of a seamless whole" (Sterritt 55). This technique is simple, subtle, and as different as can be from the heroically grand style Malick applies to the film’s cosmological and theological material, though no less significant in capturing the "shining" – a word that resonates from The Thin Red Line: "Oh my soul, look out through my eyes. Look at the things you made, all things shining" – of God's creation. As Sterrtit explains, "'shining' is not anomalous but universal, not amoral but a sign of God's goodness and mercy. More emphatically in every new film he makes, his goal is to evoke the shining of the world with reverence and awe, showing that the way of mortal nature is a misleading, ultimately illusory detour from the abiding way of immortal grace." Malick "who shot parts of The New World on 65mm film and parts of The Tree of Life in IMAX is something of a cinematic alchemist, hoping that an expansive, fine-grained film emulsion might absorb not only the light but the very essence of the people, places, and things in God’s creation. This is the very essence of Malick’s art: movie technique as revelation, cinematography as theophany" (Sterritt 56-57). This extensive use of visuals and breathtaking cinematography by the incomparable Emmanuel Lubezki distinguishes The Tree of Life from other Christian films in which characters either literally express their awe when discussing the oftentimes incomprehensible power of God, or the central questions and struggles of the characters are answered in such a coercive manner that the viewing experience becomes one laden with chastisement as opposed to one of self-reflection. Malick manages to transcend this stereotype of Christian films through dramatic imagery, accomplishing the same tasks that a lesser filmmaker would infuse with expository dialogue.
The Tree of Life begins with a prologue introducing its allusive, associative structure and the central themes of love, death, grief, and humanity's existential choice between the "way of nature" and "the way of grace," where it is the responsibility of individuals to determine which path they will choose to follow. Mrs. O'Brien explains that the way of nature "only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things" (emphasis mine). Grace, on the other hand, "doesn't try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries…the way of grace ever comes to a bad end." It becomes apparent that not only is this the central question of the film – which path will Jack choose? – but that Mr. and Mrs. O'Brien embody each of these contradictory teachings, creating the primary source of conflict that young Jack grapples with into his adulthood while also illuminating that there are difficulties in each of these ways of life, despite the common shared belief or desire to believe in God.

The choice between the way of grace and the way of nature is first acknowledged in the scene with the dinosaurs during the seventeen-minute cosmological interlude as previously discussed. There are two dinosaurs, one of which "tramples on the face of a smaller creature that may have been trying to hide by lying flat on the riverbank. The larger animal pauses, relaxes, moves away. If we are to psychologize this scene, it [is possible] that we should infer the birth of altruism in the world" (White 4-5). While this interpretation is an important yet enigmatic moment in the prehistoric sequence, this scene, as Kilbourn interprets it, also "opens the door…to a reading of the film in which early humans (or, for that matter, Adam and Eve) are replaced by pre-historic reptiles who nevertheless display the capacity to tell right from wrong, to not eat of the tree of knowledge, so to speak, thereby guaranteeing that the other tree will remain there for us, if only as a promise. In other words, grace manifesting in the midst of nature, forgiveness in the face of judgment" (40). This scene is our first glimpse of the possibilities that the "way of grace" has in terms of living a life that reflects the grace and love we have received from God and being able to express those same sentiments towards others; however, dinosaurs also became extinct, subtextually signifying the imperfectness and "acceptance of being slighted" that is inherently part of this "way of grace."

Although young Jack spends much of his time with his brothers and friends, Jack's life is primarily defined by his relationships with his parents. As mentioned, his mother follows the "way of grace"; she is warm, sympathetic, and fun to be around, often the one that Jack looks to in order to "make [him] good, brave," perhaps implying that he sees her as an earthly representation of the love that he seeks from God. Jack's father, however, is the "way of nature," the disciplinarian of the house, forever laying down rules ("sit on the front of your chair"; "pull weeds out by the roots"; "call me father, not dad"), teaching his sons that "[i]f you want to succeed, you can't be too good," and sometimes flying into fearsome rages when he is disobeyed, such as the scene at the dinner table when R.L. giggles. This depiction of Mr. O'Brien as a verbally abusive father is certainly less than appealing, something that even Brad Pitt admitted gave him pause before accepting the role, given his role as a father in his own personal life. (Recent events and his divorce further complicate that issue.)

Far too often, however, Mr. O'Brien is described by critics as an absolute ogre, while, in truth, Mr. O'Brien falls well within the normal limits of a father. At one point, for instance, we hear a string of Jack's resentments towards his dad in voiceover – "father lies; he makes up stories; he says don't put your elbows on the table but he puts his on the table" – yet what we see on the screen is Mr. O'Brien goofing around with the kids, all of them having a terrific, playful time. Even the scene showing Mr. O’Brien exploding with rage at the dinner table is "less the stuff of Dickensian nightmare than a portrait of a well-intentioned but all-too-human man who falls short of his own standards in any number of departments" (Sterritt 56).

Malick delicately conveys the multifaceted sides of Mr. O'Brien, multiple viewings lending themselves to even kinder and less fearsome portrayals of the man. His ineffectiveness as a disciplinarian becomes increasingly apparent as the film progresses, for he is too fond of kisses, and on the one occasion when he shows real anger in the scene previously discussed, he ends up sitting alone – morose. Later, he tries to blame his wife for his outburst: "You turn my own kids against me. You undermine everything I do." He puts his arms around her and is initially met with resistance, only for her to relent. In this moment, their intertwined, struggling arms capture the love in their marriage and depth of their intimacy, despite their vastly different views on life. Mr. O'Brien's allegation is farfetched, but it contains a measure of truth: her quiet, tender, unpunishing rapport with the three boys remains both a strong influence and source of confusion for young Jack. His mother is sweet, loving; his father is strong, unrelenting; both believe in God, yet both seem to suffer, his mother subject to the exhaustion of raucous boys and an occasionally cold husband, his father a failed musician and losing his already low-paying job. For Jack, the question becomes as follows: if God is going to allow people to suffer, no matter what path they choose to take, what is the point in believing? As Kilbourn has observed, these trial, tribulations, and questions are reminiscent of the Book of Job – so much so that the he calls the film an adaptation (25).

In fact, the epigraph at the beginning of The Tree of Life comes from Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? When the morning stars sand together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4,7). However, as Hamner explains, "The rhetorical weight of this citation has led critics…to think about the film presumptively in terms of theodicy. But a filmic theodicy should pair Job with the Edenic Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and then engage themes of sin and exile and these are not the film’s foci. It is not the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that titles and pervades the film, but rather the Tree of Life, a tree that Genesis describes as standing 'in the midst of the garden' of Eden, just as trees stand persistently in the midst of Malick's cinematographic frames (Genesis 2:9)." She continues, "Humans may have been kicked out of Eden for disobeying God, but Malick's film seems to suggest that the Tree of Life, that is, the presence and grace of God through nature – follows us out of Eden and into the world. In short, the citations from Job do not evoke humanity's dogged interrogation of God's justice (e.g., how could a just God allow a good boy to die an early death?), because the question of why Jack's brother died is as thinly treated as how and when he died." She concludes, "God's justice is not under scrutiny, but rather humanity's response – to God's gift of life, to humanity's inability to control this gift of life, and (therefore) to the inevitability of human suffering" (4). This questioning of God's actions – particularly as it comes to suffering – and the paths one may choose to follow in life resonates with many Christians, encapsulating an authenticity to The Tree of Life that is so seldom seen in films with a religious emphasis. Whether or not Jack realizes the answer – he struggles with the question well into adulthood – the answer is provided for Jack through the actions of his father, as well as his own.

Mr. O'Brien, a complex man with big dreams and only a meager reality to show for all his efforts, embodies the shortcomings of humanity in comparison to God, no matter what their best efforts might be. Similarly, Jack realizes he and his father are very much alike, led as much by instinct as by reason and filled with contradictory impulses, such as when Jack sneaks into a female neighbor's house. In an episode that beautifully captures young Jack's wavering position between childhood and adolescence, he sneaks into her bedroom, steals a slip from her drawer, and runs to a nearby river where, driven by a confusing combination of fear and desire, he places it in a river current that carries it swiftly out of sight and mind.

In this scene, the surrounding trees are embracing and steady compared with the flowing angst of the water, trees having been situated throughout the film's "moving network of images as an encompassing, gentle curtain of grace, and associate water with the distress and unsettled anxieties of 'natural' selfishness. Jack's life and struggle are intercalated between these trees and waterfalls – his life is one example, one template of the ongoing choice between the way of nature and the way of grace" (Hamner 28). Furthermore, this scene encapsulates the mystifying advent of maturation, while also exemplifying that – though he more closely resembles his father's "way of nature" – he, too, understands and accepts his mother's "way of grace." Jack eventually comes to the conclusion, "Always, you were calling me," regardless of the choices he or his parents made. The final scene of an adult Jack reuniting with his deceased family suggests this resolution – the field of sunflowers intercut with their reunion. Here, the sunflowers represent the beauty in one turning towards God, rather than away, just as sunflowers forever face in the direction of the sun, completely "transfixed by a radiance that out-glows and ultimately overcomes the difficulties of life while not preventing them from occurring, no matter how soothingly, suggestively, spellbindingly it shines" (Sterritt 57).

Certain films are able to reach beyond the constraints of language so that the experience of viewing becomes a process of communication with a spiritual other, or God, in the case of The Tree of Life, perhaps even an evocation of the "'affective sublime,' a theoretical methodology that locates the sublime experience at the threshold between the cognitive and the corporeal" (French and Shacklock 339). Terrence Malick has created a work of art that not only displays an immense courage to organize such an ambitious, personal film around themes that Hollywood rarely bothers to explore but also incorporates all of the arts on an equal and interactive basis, making a film that is "one of the most formidable achievements not only of its time, but in the history of film. It is an intricate bricolage of sound and image; a classical tragedy that hinges on the human remoteness and futility in relation to the divine order" (Zucker 3).

The Tree of Life should serve as a model to other Christian filmmakers. By having the characters question God and struggle to choose a path that would lead them to a relationship with a higher power through a display of abstract feelings of loss, loneliness, and an overwhelming melancholy, in addition to using visuals as opposed to pointed dialogue to capture the immenseness of God's creation and our very small role in it, The Tree of Life becomes not only an interesting film, but an exceptional one with a faith-based theme mirroring the reality of the struggles of faith and religion for the individual. Much like young Jack, who challenges God by asking, "How did you come to me, in what shape, what disguise?" – viewers face an open text that allows them to choose how they will interpret the film and the implications it might have for their own lives, the ultimate realization being that the answers to these questions are far less important than the ability to ask them in the first place.


Works Cited

Bart, Peter. "Inside Moves: The Silent Treatment." Variety, 21 Dec. 1998, pp. 4.

Brereton, Pat, and Robert Furze. "Transcendence and The Tree of Life: Beyond the Face of the Screen with Terrence Malick, Emmanuel Levinas, and Roland Barthes." Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature & Culture, vol. 8, no. 3, 2014, pp. 329-351.

French, Sarah and Zoe Shacklock. "The Affective Sublime in Lars von Trier's Melancholia and Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life." New Review of Film & Television Studies, vol. 12, no. 4, 2014, pp. 339-356.

Hamner, M. Gail.  "Filming Reconciliation: Affect and Nostalgia in The Tree of Life." Journal of Religion & Film, vol. 18, no. 1, 2014, pp. 1-40.

Kilbourn, Russell J.A. "(No) Voice Out of the Whirlwind: The Book of Job and the End of the World in A Serious Man, Take Shelter, and The Tree of Life." Adaptation, vol. 7, no.1, 2014, pp. 25-46.

Manninen, Bertha Alvarez. "The Problem of Evil and Humans' Relationship with
God in Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life.” Journal of Religion & Film, vol. 17, iss. 1, 2016, pp. 1-23.

Nordine, Michael. "Hollywood Bigfoot: Terrence Malick and the Twenty Year Hiatus That Wasn't." Los Angeles Review of Books, 12 May 2003,

Robbins, Gregory Allen. "'Aftertones of Infinity': Biblical and Darwinian Evocations in Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life and To the Wonder." Journal of Religion & Film, vol. 20, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1-22.

Sterritt, David. "Days of Heaven and Waco: Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life." Film Quarterly, vol. 65, no. 1, 2011, pp. 52-57.

The Bible. Authorized English Standard Version, Oxford UP, 1998.

White, Rob. "Bad Blood." Film Quarterly, vol. 65, no. 1, 2011, pp. 4-5.

Zucker, Carole. "'God Don't Even Hear You,' Or Paradise Lost: Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven." Literature Film Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 1, 2001, pp. 2-9.


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