Sam Strange Remembers: TREE OF LIFE

The legendary Hollywood producer recalls the time he made his autobiography, which of course had to start at the Big Bang.

In my long career, I must have made a million autobiographical films about famous people, but never one about myself. I guess I was always afraid of showing people my dark secrets. Also, I knew it would involve the Big Bang, and that sort of factual science is hard to get funded in these deeply conservative times.

But I grew tired of people not knowing my filthy embarrassing secrets, so one day I decided to just pay for the film myself. In retrospect, I see the only fitting way to make a film documenting how I was brought to life was to bring it to life alone. For this and many other reasons, Tree of Life is easily the most personal film I’ve ever made next to Road House, which documented my twenties.
As I mentioned before, to tell the story of Sam Strange, one must travel all the way back to the Big Bang. I don’t believe in God, but I do believe the cosmic accident which created this beautiful universe took place to bring forth my existence, perhaps because some bored mystic guy wanted to watch some really good movies. Perhaps he even has a beard. In any event, the Big Bang event he created was really pretty.

At some point, a big rock became Earth, and it was filled with lots and lots of lava. Lava is pretty cool. There’s no way I would be able to make such great films if I didn’t live on a planet with so much lava.

But it gets even better because there are dinosaurs, too. Dinosaurs are a lot like humans. They look mean and scary, but they have feelings. For instance, a little dying dinosaur that can’t move might look like nothing more than an easy snack. But sometimes the dinosaur that steps on its neck decides not to bite it. The little dinosaur still dies, and the bigger dinosaur probably starves to death, but at least we know the dinosaurs were capable of stupid compassion. I would never have been able to win so many Oscars without such kind naivety in the natural world.

After the dinosaurs, nothing of much interest happens until I get born. My mother was kind of like a grown up child, while my father was kind of like a de-aged old person. Or perhaps someone who aged backwards. They both loved me in their special way. I responded by hating one and wanting to fuck the other.

After a couple years, they had another boy, and yet one more the year following that. So I had two brothers. The middle brother, Robb, died when he was nineteen, so I remember him. The youngest brother never did anything of worth, and I can’t be absolutely certain he even existed. His name was Rickon.

We had such a wonderful life filled with wonderful life lessons. Like one summer, I was experimenting with violence as all young boys did in the 1950s, and I tied a frog to a rocket and watched it blow up. It made me feel pretty bad. Another summer, I was experimenting with violence and I shot my brother’s finger off with a bb gun. I felt pretty bad about that, too. And then this other summer, I learned about death when a boy drowned at the pool. This was my last innocent experiment with violence. I guess that one taught me everything I needed to know.

Despite looking like a model, my dad was a pretty big loser. He spent his whole life failing as both a musician and an inventor and turned this disappointment toward raising boys that would take over the world. The problem is, people who didn’t take over the world don’t know shit about taking over the world. So my brothers and I spent our summers doing strict landscaping. Just like Donald Trump’s childhood.

He also tried to teach us how to fight because people who can’t be musicians or inventors get beaten up a lot. He’d hit us with sticks and instruct us on how to properly beg for mercy, lay in a fetal position, and finally, play dead. We could only truly learn to fight on summers when he was out of town. Mom never said “no” to anything, so she’d totally let us beat the shit out of each other.

I don’t know why Mom liked Dad so much. She was way out of his league. Sometimes in the summer she’d wear loose dresses and I could see down her shirt. It’d get so hot, beads of sweat would often rise on her thighs and the deep valley between her breasts. I still remember the summer she stopped breast feeding me. In fact, I typed a very detailed account of how I felt the day it happened. It references Walt Whitman at least twice. One summer, I stole one of Mom’s dresses and did all kinds of innocent experimentations with it before throwing it in the river.

My brother died when I was nineteen. No one told me until I was around Sean Penn’s age. It really blew my mind. I tried to make a movie about it called The Thin Red Line. It doesn’t have a main character because I didn’t really know him. I don’t even remember if he was played by Adrian Brody or Ralph Fiennes.

When I died, I went to Heaven. Heaven was a beach. Mom was there, but she was still with Dad. I patted Dad on the shoulder because I was finally mature enough to pretend I liked him. My brother was there, but he was the kid I remembered from all those summers, not a military man of nineteen. I assume my other brother was there, too, but if I saw him, I didn’t recognize him.

This is what life is all about. For me, and for all of us. We live, we love, we hurt, we drown kids in the pool. The tree is us and we are its branches. And its leaves are our kids. The caterpillars that eat the leaves is cancer. When lightning hits the tree and splits it in half, that’s like when an asteroid hits the earth.

After I died, an asteroid hit the earth. Good news, though! The whole thing started up again a billion years later. Thus, a new Sam Strange will someday be born, and he will someday make a film called Tree of Life, just as I and all the Sam Stranges who came before did.

(three stars)