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Cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki Says 'The Tree Of Life' Like "Perfume" Or "Great Music"

by Kevin Jagernauth
January 16, 2011 10:31 AM
1 Comment
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Also Reveals That Terrence Malick Consulted With NASA For Footage Of The Cosmos



With a little more than four months to go before its release, the details about Terrence Malick’s long-awaited “The Tree of Life” are continuing to trickle out bit by bit. The film centers on a father in the 1950s (Brad Pitt) and his son Jack (Sean Penn), now grown up, in the present day as they deal with the residue of their difficult relationship. We’ve been watching that beautiful trailer more than we’d care to admit and we’re starting to feel those images burned onto our brains. The man responsible for creating those images, Emanuel "Chivo" Lubezki, (ace cinematographer for “Children Of Men”, “The New World”), spoke to the LA Times about the film, and revealed Malick's unorthodox approach to shooting the film.

In order to get some of those striking elemental images, Lubezki said Malick actually consulted with NASA for footage of the cosmos as well as other grand visuals, but was cryptic when discussing the film saying, “It's very hard to talk about this movie because almost anything I say will reduce it and make it seem prosaic and simplistic." Though he did go on to offer a few interesting tidbits on Malick’s unique approach to the film. He said that the director was less interested in a traditional narrative and more interested in creating a feeling. "Photography is not used to illustrate dialogue or a performance” but instead is used “to capture emotion so that the movie is very experiential.”

"So the actors are performing the dialogue, but Terry isn't interested in dialogue. So they're talking, and we're shooting a reflection or we're shooting the wind or we're shooting the frame of the window, and then we finally pan to them when they finish the dialogue,” Lubezki said. Something that, in retrospect, seems a lot more clear in the enigmatic trailer. Additionally, Malick didn't shoot any coverage -- the same scene from multiple angles -- for the film and this unconventional way of filming took some getting used to for the cast. "I think they thought we were insane."

Sean [Penn] is a director, and I'm sure he wondered 'Is this method something I want to learn or is it something I never want to repeat?' For Brad [Pitt] I think it took him a couple of days or a week to get into the spirit," Lubezki also said adding that "The Tree of Life" was "like no set I ever worked on."

He went on to explain that the film is “meant to trigger tons of memories, like a scent or a perfume" and that it was more like "great music” that doesn’t move like a normal movie and instead takes you to “a very primordial place in your brain." So it’s an impressionistic film that’s meant to stir up a lot of emotion? Yep, that sounds like Malick and we could not be any more excited. “The Tree of Life” will be taking up space in our brains May 27, 2011 when the film hits theaters and it's also widely expected to make its world premiere at Cannes earlier in the month. -Cory Everett

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More: Films, Terrence Malick, The Tree Of Life

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1 Comment

  • Arsenije Jovanovic | January 18, 2011 11:47 AMReply

    This is the best, not to say the only good one writing about the film until now, the very first opening of mental door leading to the labyrinth of possible great art

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