I recently had two essays published on Wonders in the Dark as part of their monumental Countdown on the Top Films about Childhood where I put fresh eyes on two beloved films, The Tree of Life and The Night of the Hunter. Readers might recall I published the ballot I submitted to WitD not too long ago. And while my personal rankings and choices might differ from the final results after all was tabulated…these two fine films still made the cut as follows:
Coming in at #38 was The Tree of Life and here’s an excerpt of what I had to say at WitD:
And by weaving the life of an ordinary family (and the childhood of an ordinary man) into the grand story of the cosmos, Malick shows that every life is as insignificant and as a monumental as we want it to be. We provide meaning to what we want to provide meaning to. If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, did it make a sound? Our observing of a thing gives it meaning, changes its definition. For a film where characters frequently talk to their god in one-sided prayer, Malick’s thesis points to both the meaning and meaningless of it all. We answer our own prayers.
Coming it at #6 was The Night of the Hunter and here’s an excerpt of what I had to say at WitD:
The singer in the opening of Charles Laughton’s 1955 classic The Night of the Hunter invites viewers to dream along with its young protagonist, John Harper (Billy Chapin), but what transpires in the film is a pure nightmare where religious fanaticism begs us to treat everyone like children and envision a world where everyone is fair game for evil. He’s just a poor kid whose dad was just hung for murder (but not before entrusting his son to hide his stash of money), whose mother (Shelly Winters) is helpless, and whose little sister, Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce), needs minding. Into his life steps the world’s most vile step-father, Harry Powell (the magnificently monstrous Robert Mitchum) – a widow-killer and money-hungry would-be preacher who wows the simpletons of the small towns he invades with his fire-and-brimstone rhetoric. But John is on to him from the get-go (he knows this jack-ass just wants the cash), and John rails against the man and his worldview.
Written by David H. Schleicher