Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, Vol 8, No 3 (2014)

Transcendence and The Tree of Life: Beyond the Face of the Screen with Terrence Malick, Emmanuel Levinas, and Roland Barthes

Pat Brereton, Robert Furze
Issued Date: 16 Dec 2014


Debates over the ways in which film communicates to its audience have historically revolved around investigations into the meanings of what is seen and heard. Certain films are able to reach beyond the constraints of language so that the experience of viewing becomes a process of communication with a spiritual other. We consider such a concept of transcendence through the writings of two theorists: Emmanuel Levinas, whose philosophy of ethics concentrated on the inability of human knowledge to conceive of the divine truth that is accessed through the encounter with the face of another person, and Roland Barthes, whose reflections on the photograph focused on how some images are able to resist interpretation. Both writers are used to analyze Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life and argue that it promotes a transcendent experience, even an experience of the sublime or Holy, that exceeds aesthetic or intellectual analysis.

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DOI: 10.1558/jsrnc.v8i3.329


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