Cinematographer Reveals What It Was Life Filming Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE

Terrence Mallick is one of the most enigmatic directors who focuses more on quality than quantitiy when it comes to the visually stunning films he directs.

Emanuel “Chivo” Lubezki , the cinematographer on Terrene Malick’s The Tree of Life recently revealed in an interviw that the film made up its own rules and also broke them too. Keep reading to learn how.
He had the following to say to the LA Times, “Once you think you got the formula, you realized there is no formula. It’s like no set I ever worked on.”
Lubezki revealed two unique facts about the film. First, he said that  Malick consulted with NASA for footage of the cosmos and other grand imagery which were used in the film. The director also would not shoot actors in a conventional way if at all which is agains the norm for most films.

A process know as “coverage”, where multiple cameras are strategically placed to capture all aspects of a scene. As you might have guessed by now, Tree of Life went agains the norm.

Lubezki went on to say:

“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.”

The film tells the story of a spiritual journey using a sense of place, a long span of time and a set of striking elemental images. One interesting fact revealed is that the film is partly based on Malick’s own life. Lubezki and others who worked on the film have revealed that the goal was not to tell a story but to create a feeling.

“Photography is not used to illustrate dialogue or a performance. We’re using it to capture emotion so that the movie is very experiential. It’s meant to trigger tons of memories, like a scent or a perfume.”

Call me crazy, but actors usually rely on directors to actually direct them which involves two way communication. I wonter how the actors felt about him not always being interested on what they had to say?
Lubezki goes on to say,

“I think they thought we were insane. Sean 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 I think it took him a couple of days or a week to get into the spirit.”

I enjoyed The Thin Red Line, but have not been a huge fans of  Mallick’s work. Do not get me wrong I am a sucker for beautiful visuals in films, but you have to really be in the mood for his films. His films take the audience on a journey that explores life and emotion. This is the exact opposite of a popcorn movie (even though I love popcorn with all my movies) and will take a lot of thought to wrap your head around.
Official Synopsis:
From Terrence Malick, the acclaimed director of such classic films as Badlands, Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life is the impressionistic story of a Midwestern family in the 1950’s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith. Through Malick’s signature imagery, we see how both brute nature and spiritual grace shape not only our lives as individuals and families, but all life.

Check out the trailer HERE if you have yet to see it!

The Tree of Life will be released on May 27th 2011.
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Jim Napier

Jim Napier

Lover of movies and The Big Lebowski.