Terrence Malick’s film Tree of Life (2011) is centered on the O’Brien family in Texas during the 1950’s. Set against a backdrop of the creation and destruction of the universe, there is hardly any dialog, but a lot of beautiful imagery and soundtrack. Malick’s masterful direction and framing have inspired a collage project to begin our Spring semester at CCS. The process is divided into several steps. First students watched the following commentary by Roy Anker, a professor of English at Calvin College. After a brief contemplation of the main themes– creation and destruction, students took primary colors and painted 6 sheets of varying secondary and tertiary colors in free form patterns. It was rewarding to see everyone become engrossed and lose themselves in the process.
None of what resulted from this process failed to amaze me.
For the next part of the project, students watched early portions of the film that introduced Malick’s way of grace and the contrasting way of nature. The main character and eldest O’Brien son, Jack, struggles with these opposing approaches to life. His sweet, demure and lovely mother exemplifies the way of grace, while his more forceful and authoritarian father is the way of nature. In reaction to watching the film, students sketched their favorites scenes. Many students chose to focus on plants and trees, while a few were drawn to the awakening and exploring individual characters in the movie.
As we progress to the next stage of cutting and pasting onto a larger piece of paper, more photos will be posted. Enjoy the slideshow below. Included are photos of the various steps in the project, as well as black and white shots of the artists.