Screenplay and Quotes from Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (2011)

Screenplay

Film Analysis and Interpretations

Film Quotes

Prologue: [on screen, unspoken] “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Job 38: 4,7

Mr. O’Brien: I wanted to be loved because I was great; A big man. I’m nothing. Look at the glory around us; trees, birds. I lived in shame. I dishonored it all, and didn’t notice the glory. I’m a foolish man.

Mr. O’Brien: Wrong people go hungry, die. Wrong people get loved. The world lives by trickery. If you want to succeed you can’t be too good.

Mrs. O’Brien: [voice over] Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it, too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things.5

Mrs. O’Brien: [voice over] Help each other. Love everyone. Every leaf. Every ray of light. Forgive.

Mrs. O’Brien: [voice over] The nuns taught us there were two ways through life – the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow.

Mrs. O’Brien: [voice over] The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by.

Mrs. O’Brien: [voice over] Do good to them. Wonder. Hope.

Mrs. O’Brien: [voice over] Grace doesn’t try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries.

Young Jack: [voice over] Where were You? You let a boy die. You let anything happen. Why should I be good ? When You aren’t.

Young Jack: [voice over] I didn’t know how to name You then. But I see it was You. Always You were calling me.

Mrs. O’Brien: [voice over] The nuns taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end.

Young Jack: [voice over] What I want to do, I can’t do. I do what I hate.

Father Haynes: He is in God’s hands, now.

Mrs. O’Brien: He was in God’s hands the whole time. Wasn’t he?

Mrs. O’Brien: [voice over] Lord, Why? Where were you? Did you know what happened? Do you care?1

Mr. O’Brien: Toscanini once recorded a piece sixty five times. You know what he said when he finished? “It could be better.” Think about it.

Young Jack: [on camera] Help me not answer my dad… Help me not to get dogs in fights… Help me to be thankful for everything I’ve got…

Young Jack: Are You watching me? I want to know what You are. I want to see what You see.

Mrs. O’Brien: [pointing to the sky] That’s where God lives!

Mr. O’Brien: You are not to call me “Dad”. You will only call me “Father”.

Young Jack: But…

Mr. O’Brien: Don’t interrupt!

Young Jack: But you do…

Mr. O’Brien: Don’t interrupt!

Young Jack: It’s your house. You can kick me out whenever you want to. You’d like to kill me wouldn’t you.

Mrs. O’Brien: [voice over] I will be true to you. Whatever comes.7

Mr. O’Brien: Your mother’s naive. It takes fierce will to get ahead in this world. If you’re good, people take advantage of you.

Mr. O’Brien: You can’t say I can’t. You say: I’m having trouble, I’m not done yet.

Jack: [voice over] I see me as a child… I see my brother. True. Kind. He died when he was 19.

Young Jack: [voice over] Mother. Make me good. Brave.

Mrs. O’Brien: [voice-over] I give him to you. I give you my son.

Mr. O’Brien: If you want to succeed, you can’t be too good!

Mrs. O’Brien: [voice over] The nuns taught us there are two ways through life: the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow. Grace doesn’t try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it, too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it, when love is smiling through all things. They taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end. I will be true to you. Whatever comes.M

Mr. O’Brien: They’re closing the plant. I was given this choice: no job or transfer to a job nobody wants.

Young Jack: [voice over] How do I get back? To where they are.

Jack: [voice over] Brother. Keep us. Guide us. To the end of time.

R.L.: Tell us a story from before we can remember.

Mr. O’Brien: [voice over] You’re all I have. You’re all I want to have. You’re a sweet boy.

Mrs. O’Brien: Come here!

Young Jack: NO! I’m gonna do what I want to do, and you let him walk all over you.

Visiting Texas – The Tree of Life Experience

In March 2019, my wife, daughters, and I set out from Wisconsin to visit Texas for one week. It was a memorable trip that I am grateful for. Since first watching The Tree of Life, visiting Texas to experience where the film took place became a goal.

Among the highlights for me was visiting many of the filming locations of The Tree of Life. While much of the filming took place in Smithville, TX, scenes were also shot in Houston, La Grange, and Austin in addition to several out of state and international shots.

In March 2019, my wife, daughters, and I set out from Wisconsin to visit Texas for one week. It was a memorable trip that I am grateful for. Since first watching The Tree of Life, visiting Texas to experience where the film took place became a goal.

Among the highlights for me was visiting many of the filming locations of The Tree of Life. While much of the filming took place in Smithville, TX, scenes were also shot in Houston, La Grange, and Austin in addition to several out of state and international shots.

Houston

We spent time in Houston visiting my wife’s cousin on Saturday evening, Sunday, and Monday morning. We checked out the Space Center Houston, toured downtown Galveston, and the Houston Zoo.

Although I knew the scenes with Sean Penn included the Houston cityscape, I did not visit the exact locations. On the way out of Houston, my daughter took this photo of the Houston skyline.

La Grange

We drove west for 90 minutes before arriving in La Grange, Texas on Monday afternoon. We visited the Fayette County Courthouse, easily identifiable with its stone architecture. Link to the 1891 courthouse: http://www.co.fayette.tx.us/page/fayette.Courthouse

The local square is where the O’Brien boys witness an arrest and also walk with their mother in the film. I included a few screenshots below. It was a unique stop. The interior included a center fountain and I can only imagine how many thousands of people walked through that front door, evidenced by the sunken concrete step in the final photo.

Smithville

We continued west for 20 minutes until we arrived in Smithville where we would stay for two nights until Wednesday. It was, admittedly, a surreal experience to finally be in Smithville, a movie-town that was more known for Hope Floats than The Tree of Life. We arrived at our AirBnB and could not have been happier with our host and location, which was located within the filming neighborhood and only one block from The Tree of Life house. In fact, our AirBnB was on the same street as the Hope Floats house and the large oak in the yard of our place was said to be used in one of the filming shots as seen below. The weather was fantastic (75-80 degrees) during our stay.

We spent the first evening in Smithville getting a feel for the town. It was exactly as I had hoped – small, close-knit, and old-fashioned. It did not take long to know exactly how to get around the town of 3,800.

We took several walks during our three-day, two-night stay in Smithville. We first walked down by the beautiful ‘Hope Floats’ house and then made our way to 709 Burleson St. As we approached the Tree of Life house, I kept thinking “I am finally here…we made it.” I credit my wife for being so supportive during this venture. She definitely shared in my enthusiasm during the experience.

The house itself looked much like it was left in the film, despite a little weathered since it had been over 10 years from the filming dates in 2008. We took several pictures of the street and exterior while continuing on to see other locations.

We visited the old Smithville School that served as the school that Jack went to in the film. It’s currently vacant, but there was some cleaning work being done at the time we visited. Concrete sidewalks were recently put down around the property, so I was not sure of what is to come.

We went downtown and then to Pockets Grille, a nice restaurant that featured movie memorabilia from several of the films shot in Smithville, including Hope Floats, Bernie, Beneath the Darkness, Doonby, and dozens more smaller films. Of course, I made it a point to get a photo of the DDT Sign that was used in the film on the truck spraying for mosquito control as the young boys ran through it.

On Tuesday morning, we went for breakfast downtown at Old World Bakery and Cafe. What a great place it was. Their breakfast wraps were incredibly affordable and delicious. We visited the downtown sidewalk where Mrs. O’Brien walks with her boys nearer to the end of the film as Mr. O’Brien’s voiceover explains his regrets and how he ‘didn’t notice the glory’. This is also where the iconic “Star Biscuit” painted wall is located which can be easily overlooked in the film.

Throughout our time in Smithville, we relaxed and allowed our girls time to play at the playgrounds, tour the shops, go to storytime at the Smithville Library, and enjoyed living slowly. During our many neighborhood walks, I captured photos of many of the scenes in the film.

We did stop in at the “Back Door Cafe”, however, they were out of food and were nearing closing around 2 pm. I still had the opportunity to get a few photos of the interior and exterior of the restaurant where Mr. O’Brien eats with his sons.

Just before leaving Wednesday around midday, we were fortunate enough to run into one of the neighbors of The Tree of Life house. She was good friends with the owner (who was out of town at the time for work) and we talked about the film. She seemed genuinely excited to meet someone so interested in the film and she gave her blessings to check out the yard as she said the owner would not mind since we had talked. This was the highlight of the Smithville visit.

Austin

We left Smithville mid-day on Wednesday and headed northwest to Austin for the afternoon. We went to the Thinkery and the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library before heading out. On the way to San Antonio, we stopped at the Texas State Capitol Building and then to Barton Spring Pool. We ran out of time to visit the New Sweden Church in Manor, TX. Perhaps on our next visit.

San Antonio

We left Austin on Wednesday night and stayed in San Antonio until Friday morning. We stayed downtown, toured The Alamo, took a carriage ride, a River Walk boat tour, and visited shops. It was a perfect end to our Texas trip.

Great Images from Great Movies – “The Tree of Life”

There can never be enough stills from this masterpiece.

Keith & the Movies

great-images-tree of lifeTruly great movies can leave indelible marks. It may be through an emotional connection to the story. It may be through a remarkable performance or a signature scene. But it could also be through the brilliant imagery a film can carve into your mind. That’s what this feature is all about – highlighting great images from great movies. Today we look at Terrence Malick’s stunning “The Tree of Life.

treepostertree7tree4tree19tree14tree12tree8tree11tree9tree20The Tree Of Life - 2011tree16tree5tree3tree10tree1tree15tree18tree17tree6tree13So what on your thoughts on “The Tree of Life”? Which image stands out the most? Let me know in the comments section below.

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The Tree of Life (2011) Filming Locations

The most impactful movie of my life is The Tree of Life (2011) directed by Terrence Malick. In March of 2019, we visited many of the filming locations in Texas of this film that starred Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, and Sean Penn. Locations in Texas include Smithville, La Grange, and Austin. The residents of Smithville were very kind and welcoming which made our visit that much more memorable.

Scroll the Pinterest board below or click to view photos of filming locations that I took in March of 2019 that include screenshots from The Tree of Life (2011) film.

The most impactful movie of my life is The Tree of Life (2011) directed by Terrence Malick. In March of 2019, we visited many of the filming locations in Texas of this film that starred Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, and Sean Penn. Locations in Texas include Smithville, La Grange, and Austin. The residents of Smithville were very kind and welcoming which made our visit that much more memorable.

Lists of Filming Locations

Movie-locations.com – The Tree of Life (2011)

IMDB – The Tree of Life (2011) Film Locations

Smithville, Texas – Movie Sights

Map of Filming Locations – Smithville, Texas

The Tree of Life – Reflections — The Bookshop Barista

Terrence Malick is no ordinary filmmaker, nor is The Tree of Life a typical drama. (Is it a drama?) It’s hard to put the film’s plot into a box, but that being said I’ll try my best before I go into my thoughts. Simply, The Tree of Life is the story of a man looking back on his […]

The Tree of Life – Reflections — The Bookshop Barista

Criterion’s ‘The Tree of Life’ Is Not a Director’s Cut, but a New Movie From Terrence Malick — IndieWire

There is so much to enjoy in the Criterion version.

Malick says that the new, 188-minute edit of his 2011 drama starring Brad Pitt is another version altogether.

Criterion’s ‘The Tree of Life’ Is Not a Director’s Cut, but a New Movie From Terrence Malick — IndieWire

Fiona Shaw on Killing Eve, Harry Potter, and “walking into people’s imaginations”

https://tv.avclub.com/fiona-shaw-on-killing-eve-harry-potter-and-walking-i-1833946368

The Tree Of Life (2011)—“Grandmother”

AVC: Going back to that notion that a film performance is what the editor has decided to keep, you’re not onscreen for very much of The Tree Of Life, but you must’ve shot more than what ended up in the final cut.

FS: I went out to stay with them all in a place called Smithville, in Texas. It’s an amazing town with a big huge water tank—one of those gorgeous, old American Midwest water tanks right as you enter the town, with “Smithville” written on it. And it’s the first town I ever went to where I saw literally two cowboys walking down the street. And I thought, “My God, I could be in 1870 here.”

And Terry Malick is just the most delightful person you could meet. He had come to BAM in Brooklyn—what was I performing? I think I was doing Happy Days, and he came to see Happy Days, and we had lunch. He doesn’t often come to New York, he said, and we had a lovely lunch. So I felt that I knew him by the time I went down to work with him, and he’d written various things, and he asked me to write various things, and then he would film it in a million different locations. He’d film the same scene in the sitting room, in the street, down the road. He’d say, “Where would you like to film it now?” And I’d think, “What?” He’s looking for the music of the scene, isn’t he? He’s not looking for the scene of the scene or the plot of the scene.

So I filmed a lot, and at one point, about a year later, Sara [Green], the producer, said to me, “You know, your voiceover is very much the leading voice of the film.” By the time the film came out, I was almost out of it. And that tells you everything about process. [Malick] takes a world and then he chips away at it bit by bit by bit by bit. So you have no idea whether any of it is left. But I didn’t mind at all because to be even around him—you couldn’t write those scenes and do them in one go. You have to find a process by which to find them. And he did that.

But you’re dead right: I did an enormous amount of filming, and very little of it [Laughs.] was left, but I’m trying not to take it as a criticism.

The Tree of Life ranks 7th on BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century

http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20160819-the-21st-centurys-100-greatest-films

In August of 2016, the BBC released their rankings for the 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century (to include the year 2000). Film critics from the six inhabited continents, 177 critics in all, submitted their rankings that were compiled into the BBC’s official list.

The Tree of Life finds itself 7th in the rankings.

Below is a list of the top ten.

10. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
9. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)
8. Yi Yi: A One and a Two (Edward Yang, 2000)
7. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
5. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
4. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
3. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
2. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)

Two Ways Through Life – The Tree of Life Film Enthusiast Blog

Welcome to my blog – dedicated to one of the greatest achievements in film – The Tree of Life.

Director Terrence Malick premiered the film at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 where it was awarded the Palme d’Or, the highest prize given at the festival and considered by many to be the most prestigious honor in film. 

From the moment that I first witnessed this film, I was drawn to it like no other film that I had ever seen before. Memories of my childhood stirred while I also found new perspective and understanding in life. Not only did I reflect on my younger years, but as a father I have sought to better understand Mr. O’Brien’s internal struggles and how he indeed was a man with many layers. 

The Tree of Life is a reminder of the importance of noticing the glory around us. I hope that this blog will allow you to dive deeper into what  The Tree of Life means to you.