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Brad Pitt talks The Tree of Life at Cannes

Brad Pitt in The Tree of Life

Story by Jack Foley

BRAD Pitt has said he was moved by Terrence Malick’s script for The Tree of Life, which was why he agreed to star in the film.

Speaking at a press conference following the Cannes press screening of the film, Pitt described the film as “universal” and said that “Malick wants to speak to all cultures”.

Questions abounded at the press conference regarding the meaning of the film, whether it was autobiographical and what appealed about the script – which takes a personal story about a small town Texas family and juxtaposes it with wider questions about faith, creation and humanity’s place in it.

Pitt himself plays a loving but stern father opposite Sean Penn as his grown-up son, named Jack, who reflects on the people and moments that shape his life.

The ever-reclusive Malick did not attend the press conference… a decision described by one of the film’s producers, Bill Pohlad, as integral to the filmmaker’s policy of not wanting to discuss his film.

“He wants the public to see it as a poem, for everyone to interpret as they see fit,” added Pohlad.

When asked if it required “a leap of faith” to make the film, Pitt said: “Yes, it’s a leap of faith and that’s the point. That’s when these accidents are going to happen. But you know you’re in great hands. So, it’s not that scary.”

And when asked to elaborate further on Malick’s process, he said: ““It would take many days to explain the film’s creative process. The screenplay was wonderfully written, very intense, but Terrence Malik didn’t want to follow it slavishly. He likes to capture the truth between the lines. That’s why this film feels so fresh.”

Asked to comment on how his own faith informed his portrayal of the father, Pitt said: “I grew up with Christianity and I remember questioning greatly things that didn’t work for me, and some things that did. These same questions are asked in the film, which is why it moved me and spoke to me as it does.”

And commenting on the structure of the film itself, Pitt described it as “quite ingenious”, especially in the way that it features a “marriage of the micro with the macro”.

“He [Malick] tells this micro story of a family in a small town in Texas and juxtaposes it with the macro of the birth of the cosmos, of cell splitting and I find that quite extraordinary that there seems to be some parallel truth in that.”

He also praised Malick for not coming out and “selling his film”, suggesting that he didn’t feel artists had to behave like estate agents to market their property.

The Tree of Life screened at Cannes on Monday and drew a mixed response from critics

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