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The promise of “The Tree of Life” was that in it he was once again turning to things of which he had firsthand experience. The narrative part of the film was in fact autobiographical, telling the story of Mr. Malick’s own childhood in Texas. Brad Pitt plays his father, Jessica Chastain his mother.

There are occasional flashes of the talent on display in “Badlands”in this part of the film. The problem is the other part, which overshadows it and purports to take us as far away from observed experience as it is possible to get: to the cosmic, geological and biological origins of the earth and the creatures on it — and then on to some unearthly eternity on a heavenly beach.

Not only is this in itself a kind of cinematic hubris, an assumption by the filmmaker of a godlike point of view, it has nothing to do with the interesting part of the movie — apart from making that same dull, commonplace contrast between natural bigness and human littleness and providing a hopeful eternal presence to his lost loved ones. We can see why he might have wanted to do that but not why he thought it would interest anybody else.

But then, as a certified genius and embodiment of Hollywood’s idea of cinematic art, he must have thought he didn’t have to worry about interesting ordinary moviegoers.