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Arts & Ideas Presents: The Tree of Life Screening and Discussion

By Toussaint Egan

Next Monday, Aurora University will feature a screening of Terrence Malick’s 2011 film “The Tree of Life”. The showing will be followed by an audience discussion led by Dr. Andrea Kowalchuk, Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies. The Tree of Life is the first in a series of films selected on behalf of the Arts & Ideas program by Dr. Gerald Butters, each of them in some way tie into the program’s greater overarching theme this year, trials and questions of faith.

“It’s stunning and spectacular, but also so intimate at the same time.” says Dr. Kowalchuk. “[Terrence Malick] has this ability to just go into the heart of some of the deepest human questions. This film in particular considers cosmic questions that emerge out of the experience of suffering and loss.”

When asked what she would like for attendees to take away from the presentation and conversation, Dr. Kowalchuk replied, “A greater sensitivity to the difficulty of human life…[the chance for] opening a dialogue between the pious and non-pious. I think that’s good for people on campus because there’s such a diversity of people in regards to their beliefs, I think it’s important to have a dialogue about these sorts of things.”

“I like to choose movies that I think that are important that students probably did not see in theaters,” replied Dr. Butters when asked as to why he chose the film. “The theme this year is questions of faith [because] college is often a time in which people’s preconceived ideas of faith are often challenged, and so I thought that we should have a series of films that deal with that issue. I think it’s one of the most spiritual films that Hollywood has ever made.”

The Tree of Life follows the adolescence and adulthood of Jack O’Brien, portrayed by Sean Penn. Focusing on the trials of loss and self-identity throughout his life, the story shifts between Jack’s story of personal discovery and the much larger backdrop of a  cosmic search for purpose and meaning.

The Tree of Life will be shown in Perry Theatre at 7 p.m. on September 24th.  Online registration is required for the event and is free of charge to all Aurora University students and staff.