Friday, March 23, 2012

The greatest tree in cinematic history (is on TV)

Brother Justin's tree from Carnivale (photo courtesy of Dauntless Media), and a tree in Brookgreen Gardens, Pawley's
Island, South Carolina.

A few weeks ago, Slate ran an article about the greatest trees in cinematic history and the obsessive directors - Terence Malick, Alfred Hitchcock, Lars von Trier - who spent their time, money and sanity searching for them. I was reminded of this when I saw the above tree on a tour of a former rice plantation in South Carolina and, because I am the sort of person who is constantly pretending that I am in my favorite TV shows, immediately started to compare it to the actual greatest tree in cinematic history: Carnivale's tree.

Those of you who watched HBO's short-lived head-trip of a show (all three of you) are probably nodding your heads in agreement right now and, judging from the images that come up from a cursory Google search for "Carnivale tree," admiring the tree tattoos inked on your backs. For the rest of you, Carnivale was essentially what would happen if Lost and Twin Peaks dropped acid together one night, had sex, and produced an epic saga stuffed to the gills with crazy characters and crazier mythology. The Tree (which creator Daniel Knauf has stated is the Biblical Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) appears in dreams, on a hill outside of Mintern, California, and tattooed on the backs and chests of various Avatars of light and darkness. (Good luck puzzling out that last sentence if you're not a fan of the show).

The trees that Slate mentions - in The Shawshank Redemption, Antichrist and The Tree of Life, among others - are certainly important to their films. But to me, there is no tree as evocative as the twisted, gnarled trunk that haunts the dreams of Ben Hawkins and that Brother Justin gets tattooed on his chest and back. While my tree might not have measured up, I think it deserves its own movie. I don't think I'll be getting that tattoo, though.

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