Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tree of Life (Reichardt's Version)


Jeff, it was great meeting you. I hope we can do something like this again sooner rather than later

Brandon, your moustache rocked Ithaca.


Below are MAJOR SPOILERS for Meek's Cutoff.


Jim Emerson insists that the first shot of a film matters, or at least that it should matter.

I agree wholeheartedly. I note also that opening words matter.

The first word we see in Meek's Cutoff is the word "lost" carved onto a log. The first spoken words we hear are a boy reading Genesis 3. If you missed these words, you missed a lot.

Genesis 3 becomes an interpretive key to the whole film.

These settlers have been (self-)exiled from the Garden of Western civilization. They are lost in a fundamental sense. They've been cut off from the Tree of Life.

While lost in the Wilderness, they undergo trials to test their maturity and wisdom. There is a constant battle between the subtle serpent, Stephen Meek (who is not meek at all, but tries to disguise himself as an "angel of light.") and the representative head of these weary travelers, Solomon Tetherow. I'm sure y'all know that King Solomon was famed for his wisdom. Tetherow's challenge is to act in faith while called to judge in wisdom; To live up to his name.

Solomon's wife, Emily (the name means "rival"), is a proper mate to Solomon, providing wise counsel, then supporting her husband's decision. Instead of struggling with her husband, her enmity is properly oriented toward crushing the Serpent.

The biggest challenge that these folks come across is the Other, a Stranger in all ways. The fates of all of these people rely on how they treat a Stranger in their midst. The Tetherows choose kindness and trust.

At the end of the film, the Tree of Life is regained, pointing toward the renewal of all things and the wagon train's company entering into rest. Reichardt doesn't need to show us anything else after this. The Serpent recognizes that what was written long ago about the crushing of his head has finally happened. Meek is finally humbled and made meek against his will.

I'll let you other guys dissect all the individual great moments in Meek's Cutoff. This has been my attempt to give a big picture overview of what I think is going on in the film. I'm still working through what I think, but these are my bold beginning attempts to make sense of everything that comes in between in light of the beginning and the end.

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