Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lacrimosa in Malick's The Tree of Life

Watch it in HD. It's probably my favorite clip taken from The Tree of Life (though the clips are in a different order than I remember). The song, by Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner, is titled "Lacrimosa." I've thought long and hard about this since seeing the film, and I think that part of the reason such a mournful song (lacrimosa means "weeping" in latin) accompanyies the creation of the universe goes back to the film's theme. In The Tree of Life, the dominant theme is meaning and purpose in suffering and evil. In keeping with this, as I see it (the film's so esoteric that I keep needing to make these qualifiers), even the creation of the universe has a bittersweet "weeping" quality to it. After all, the Creator knows the end from the beginning. The creation has a beautiful purpose (to reflect God's glory), but yet even in the creation of the universe, so much sorrow and sin lies ahead for the creation that there is ultimately sorrow, joy, and beauty all bound up together in God's perfect act. Personally, I would have chosen something more explicitly joyful, but I can appreciate what Malick was doing and saying by using Preisner's hauntingly beautiful score for this part of the film.

[Upon further inspection, this video appears to be 100% shots from the movie, but rearranged and with the correct music laid over the images. I'm guessing this was made by a fan at some point. There's actually a much higher quality version of the creation clips from the film for download over at HD Trailers.]


  1. What a great film.

    The Lacrimosa, most famously done in Mozart's Requiem mass, is part of the Dies Irae of the Catholic funeral mass.
    When I was watching the film, and I heard the "Lacrimosa" refrain as the galaxy was forming, and in the context of the citation from Job at the beginning of the film ("Where were you...") I wept. Really beautiful film.

    BE aware that it is a prayer for the dead though. As a former Reformed (now Catholic) I know that would have offended me. Now of course I find much peace in it.

    Lacrimosa dies illa,
    qua resurget ex favilla
    Iudicandus homo reus.
    Huic ergo parce, Deus:

    Pie Iesu Domine,
    dona eis requiem. Amen.

    Ah! that day of tears and mourning!
    From the dust of earth returning
    Man for judgment must prepare him;
    Spare, O God, in mercy spare him!

    Lord, all-pitying, Jesus blest,
    Grant them thine eternal rest. Amen.

  2. I think in the context of the movie, it makes perfect sense. I don't think Malick is presenting separate events. The movie - in my opinion - depicts loss and letting go. The movie is nested inside 2 minds - Mother and Son. When Sean Penn's character lit the candle he is imagining the pain his mother went through when she lost her child and how she had to reconnect to something bigger that she is to let go and accept that loss. Through the reflection of her pain, Sean's character finds the answer on how to reconnect with this higher himself. I have seen the movie several times and it always strikes me differently but lately the nesting of minds is pretty obvious to me as the movie is basically memories and reflections of what most people know in general.


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