A boy's best friend is his mother

[It is useless to read the following before my review of The Tree of Life, The Imaginary Family of Terrence Malick.]

Something more about Malick’s favorite “daddy”. Serious in every detail but with some humor. Hope you don’t mind.

“KIT: Good deal... Oh, uh, we’re on the run and we’d like to hang out here for a while. Couple of hours, maybe. How’d that be? RICH MAN: Stay as long as you like.” (Badlands)

Those moments that Kit spent in the rich man’s house were too brief. Malick was back in Hitchcock’s dominions in his next film. And this time there would be blood.
Like I wrote, the Farmer’s house is, most of all, the Bates’ residence. Psycho. Necrophilia. Mother. Like Elster, Norman is easily approachable to the director himself. Not by chance the camera films Bates with unsurpassable complicity during his (mother’s) famous final v.o. monologue.

“I’ll just sit here and be quiet just in case they do.... suspect me. They’re probably watching me. Well, let them. Let them see what kind of a person I am. I’m not even going to swat that fly. I hope they are watching... they’ll see. They’ll see and they’ll know, and they’ll say, "Why, she wouldn’t even harm a fly."”

“We are a family. I’m the father. Guess that makes Sergeant Welsh [Sean Penn] here the mother.” Penn’s last shots in The Thin Red Line, with him speacking in v.o., are a reference to Psycho. “Only one thing a man can do. Find something that’s his... make an island for himself.”: my films, my family, my mother.

Because Hitchcock made us think during the entire film that there was really some lonely and crazy Mrs. Bates in that house, to finally show us in a moment of hysterical horror that mommy was, after all,… a mummy. “Armless as one of those stuffed birds.” As one of Hitchcock’s stuffed birds.

“Mrs. Bates?”


There must be a tremendous perverse delight in this game – and that is why Hitchcock is the “rich man”. Rich in the spiritual sense. Rich in tricks, manipulations, perversities, transgressions, pleasures. And so he made Malick greedy. Made him think about how he could surpass his English father’s delights.

“So he began to speak for her, give her half his life, so to speak. At times, he could be both personalities, carry on conversations. At other times, the mother half took over completely. Now he was never all Norman, but he was often only mother.” (Psycho)

I made a joke with the seagulls in my review. But those seagulls seen both in the (supreme) architect’s dream and in the shore of eternity are really The Birds. The ones that Malick trusts to eat his audience’s eyes when the time comes.

The “bird’s-eye-view,” “God’s-eye-view” or the “director’s-eye-view”? “I think you’re evil...evil!” 
“Trees... birds... I lived in shame.” O’Brien wasn’t talking about Hitchcock’s trees...

... and sweet birdies, was he ? The Birds make their appearence in Days of Heaven.

What is the game in Days if Heaven? Abby/Holly, Linda and Bill arrive at the farm. Get a job. The Farmer falls in love with Holly. Bill and she plan to take advantage of the situation. They enjoy the good life. But Holly falls in love with the Farmer. We suspected that that already had happened in Badlands – “Gosh, I like your house”.

“KIT: Listen, ah ... We’re going to take the Cadillac for a while. How’d that be? RICH MAN: Fine. KIT: Don’t worry, I won’t let her drive.” (Badlands) An innocent joke with Notorious.

Bill gets jealous, but he goes away for a while. Linda stays there, learning. Then Bill comes back and one nice day everything starts burning. Nice summary? (Did you know that Hitchcock was already complaining about grasshoppers in 1955?: “Last year, my entire crop was wiped out by grasshoppers.” Have a look to the rich man’s money tree.)
Some images for you to consider.

Norman’s house.

In Malick’s film, Mother arrived with Bill. It doesn’t make sense? Well, that’s the idea.

The Farmer spying Abby and Bill / Oedipus spying his parents: the stupidest joke ever?

At some point, the Farmer tells her: “Sometimes it’s like you’re right inside of me you know that I can hear voice and feel your breath and everything.” I think I can believe that.

Old Norman was always a voyeur. Like Mother said, “He was always bad.”

You can’t expect him to change.

Abby got a gift. Doesn’t her necklace reminds you of something?

Maybe this girl’s necklace?

The one who arrives from among the dead to Waco.

 You know, the girl who walked through: “a long corridor that once was mirrored...”

The one with a charming housekeeper who brushes her hair.

With a beautiful mansion in England. The girl with the nightgown made by the nuns.

Now you see... Afraid? Ashamed? No need to panic, Jack.



“as armless as one of those stuffed birds.”

“Mother, now I know where you live.” (The New World)

Who’s at the door?

“I’d invite you inside, except it’s contagious. Don’t want to start an epidemic.”


“Everybody did that, the whole town’d be a mess ...”