Your door

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

“I shall fear no evil.” (The Tree of Life)

We should keep talking about Evil and its door. Its relation with Evil is what makes The Tree of Life special.
I had to consider for a while if profanation was the exact word to describe what Malick did. It is. He is not just blaspheming, insulting, mocking. He disguised Evil with the clothes of Good in order to profane it – to profane it, to rape it, inside his spectators. And his self-satisfaction – “Look, the Glory around us!” – is just another way of spitting on them: “Human life is the Good, and so the acceptance of degradation is a way of spitting upon the good, a way of spitting upon human dignity” (Bataille, Literature and Evil).
Cinema allowed Malick intimacy with his victims, to win their trust, to conquer them with the beauty of images, their sensuality, their sovereign power during the film, in order to convince them to open their heart, their self. It was there that he wanted to enter:

“The man who wrote these perverted pages knew, he went as far as the imagination allows: there was nothing respectable he did not mock, nothing pure which he did not sail, nothing joyful which he did not frighten.” (Bataille on Sade, Literature and Evil)

As an artist, Malick’s imagination went beyond Sade’s dreams. Malick’s heterotopia is the One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom’s castle and the spectators are his victims – without even knowing it. The film itself becomes the crime and the theater its scene. But all he made to you happened while you were under the effect of a powerful drug. His main pleasure will be seeing you agonizing the moment the drug loses its effect, but he certainly also enjoys seeing you drinking the poisoned tea while making complements or innocent critics. During the sermon Malick searched an angle to make Father Haynes rhyme with a resurrected Christ represented in one of the stained glasses. I can see no other explanation to this than a reference to Buñuel (as the Ecce Homo).

Like Sade’s castle, the theater is a space where the director’s freedom is only limited by his will. His desire to control his victims is unrestrained. A space for the sublime, for the River of Life. For radical exploration of his imagination, desires and sense of power.
This might be difficult to accept. A film takes long years to prepare – to write, to sell to the producers, to cast, to shoot, to edit. A difficult process demanding patience and weighty meditation. Even if it does not exclude pleasure the pleasure of manipulating everybody envolved in the process, the pleasure of anticipation, of seeing his fleurs du mal gaining shape it might be boring sometimes. This seems to exclude the alluded sublime things. But what the director wants it to produce for him in the dark of the theater is totally another thing and it is worth all the time and difficulties.

Both the glass and steal skyscrapers and the factory are an image of the cold, deliberate and precise process of creation  – the planning of the crime – opening the door to Malick’s delirium when the film is finally completed and is projected all over the world.

Crossing the door is to cut all bridges with us. Our awake to Malick’s “nature” reveals us his total loneliness with Evil, his recognition of its absolute sovereignty. All the rest has absolutely no importance on the door’s other side. Nature only wants to please itself.Ogni pensiero vola.” (As we are talking about Evil, I will call your attention to the shot with O’Brien entering the wood: In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.” Can’t you feel Dante there?)
“How sensual is the act of destruction. I can think of nothing which excites me more deliciously. There is no ecstasy similar to that which we experience when we yield to this divine infamy.” (« Quelle action voluptueuse que celle de la destruiction. Je n’en connais pas qui chatouille plus délicieusement ; il n’est pas d’extase semblables à celle qu’on goûte en se livrant à cette divine infamie », Sade, Justineapud Jacques Blondel, Emily Brontë : expérience spirituelle et création poétique) There is no other reward from this Evil than Evil itself, its pleasure, its sublime experience, its eternal childhood. Its “fun”, like Kit would say. In a sense, that is why The Tree of Life is truly Evil. And in the heart of Evil, I suspect, in the absurd, sublime and abject condition of the damned, his creator wants that final laughter to be possible.
Just you there, nobody else, just watching. Watch! You like watching, Captain?

I believe that man is necessarily put up against himself and that he cannot recognize himself and love himself to the end unless he is condemned.” (Bataille on Baudelaire, Literature and Evil)

“Always wanted to be a criminal, I guess.” (Badands)