Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life / The Tree of Life / [could be called in Finland: Elämän puu / Livets träd]. US © 2010 Cottonwood Pictures. Year of release: 2011. EX: Donald Rosenfeld. P: Dede Gardner, Sarah Green, Grant Hill, Brad Pitt, Bill Pohlad. D+SC: Terrence Malick. DP: Emmanuel Lubezki. PD: Jack Fisk. AD: David Crank. Set dec: Jeanette Scott. Cost: Jacqueline West. Makeup: Meredith Johns. Hair stylist: Charles Yusko. Visual effects crew: big. Credited are among others the creators of the astrophysical realm, the microbial realm, and the dinosaur maquettes. M: Alexandre Desplat. There is a rich compilation score of classical music. S: Craig Berkey. ED: Hank Corwin, Jay Rabinowitz, Daniel Rezende, Billy Weber, Mark Yoshikawa. Loc: Smithville (Texas); Villa Lante (near Rome, Italy). Casting: Vicky Boone, Francine Maisler. Cast: Brad Pitt (Mr. O'Brien), Sean Penn (Jack), Jessica Chastain (Mrs. O'Brien), Hunter McCracken (Young Jack), Laramie Eppler (R.L.), Tye Sheridan (Steve), Fiona Shaw (Grandmother). 139 min. A FS Film 35 mm print with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Minna Franssila / Carina Laurila viewed at the Espoo Ciné press screening, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 9 Aug 2011.

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: Arricam LT, Zeiss Master Prime and Ultra Prime Lenses; Arricam ST, Zeiss Master Prime and Ultra Prime Lenses; Arriflex 235, Zeiss Master Prime and Ultra Prime Lenses; Arriflex 435, Zeiss Master Prime Lenses; Dalsa Evolution; Phantom HD Gold; Red One Camera (some shots). - Laboratory: EFILM Digital Laboratories, Hollywood (CA), USA (digital intermediate); Laser Pacific Media Corporation, Los Angeles (CA), USA. - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision2 200T 5217, Vision2 500T 5218): 65 mm (also horizontal) (Kodak Vision2 200T 5217, Vision2 500T 5218); Redcode RAW. - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Digital (4K) (source format) (some shots), IMAX (source format) (some scenes), Panavision Super 70 (source format) (some scenes), Redcode RAW (4K) (source format) (some shots), Spherical (source format). - Printed film format: 35 mm (Fuji Eterna-CP 3523XD), D-Cinema. - Aspect ratio: 1.85:1.

Terrence Malick's new film is always an event also in our land. I don't belong to the inner circle of Malickians, but I have always respected his work.

The Tree of Life I find instantly engaging. It is a poetic film partly inspired by the lyrical trend of the New American Cinema of the 1960s, such as the work of Stan Brakhage. Interestingly, the previous year's Cannes Palme d'Or winner, Apitchatpong Weerasethakul, was also inspired by those films while studying in Chicago.

A son of the O'Brien family dies at the age of 19, and the Trauerarbeit (the processing of the sorrow) sets his brother Jack's memories back to their childhood in the 1950s in Texas. This is the slender narrative which leads to a meditation of life. Jack is played by Hunter McCracken as a boy and Sean Penn as a grown-up man.

The film is deeply felt. Brad Pitt plays the father who gets much too harsh but has the generosity of spirit to grow in understanding. (Brad Pitt is in an interesting phase. Some years ago he expanded his comic horizon and now he excels in an authoritarian role.) Jessica Chastain is the loving mother who tries to steer the family away from conflict.

The Tree of Life is a coming of age story. The three brothers find the world and discover the nature playing in the neighbourhood. Jack the firstborn is always the first target.

The title The Tree of Life has a Biblical meaning: it is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This film is among other things about Jack's discovery of good and evil - the birth of conscience. The way this has to do with his father and his mother has also psychoanalytical relevance. "I'm as bad as you are".

The cosmological images (the astrophysical realm, the microbial realm, the Jurassic imagery) have been much discussed. I think The Tree of Life would have been strong without them, but I accept the cosmic and Jurassic scenes, too. They are playful, and there is no kitsch.

Tarmo Poussu, a top Malickian, told me after the screening that this film had been edited for four years. I do think it has been worth the effort.

In the visual quality of the 35 mm print one can appreciate the decision to process the digital intermediate in 4K.

There is an interesting round-table debate on The Tree of Life in Cinema Scope.

P.S. 24 Aug 2011
Jim Emerson on The Tree of Life
from him I find this great link:
Bilge Ebiri on The Tree of Life

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