Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dinosaur Subtext

Don't click on this link if you'd prefer the dinosaur scene in The Tree of Life to remain a mystery. According to the explanation provided I read Malick's intent with the scene correctly in the context of the film, but it's fascinating to know the process by which the scene was arrived at. My favorite part of this post is the excerpt from Malick's "draft screenplay", which reads more like notes for a philosophy paper.
Leaving aside the question of whether the science behind this depiction of dinosaur life is sound (or, at least, generally accepted), that is the intention of the scene. Michael said Malick uses CGI footage almost the way he uses photographic footage. He wants a LOT of it to choose from. They gave him about 50 versions of the scene altogether (out of maybe a hundred that they put together). Michael's initial inclination was to assemble the shots the same way you would if you were shooting it with actors, with the pivotal moment focusing on a close-up of the actor's face, but Malick did not want close-ups of the dinosaurs' eyes -- he wanted it done with the paw (OK, I called it a "paw," but Michael corrected me: it's a foot).

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