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'Tree of Life's' multiple branches

April 12, 2011 |  7:23 pm

 We were sidelined with other items when Fox Searchlight launched its website for Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" at the end of last week. But receipt of a poster with images from the film jogged our memory this afternoon.

The Choose-Your-Own-Adventure conceit of the site asks viewers to decide between the way of grace (represented by the film's Jessica Chastain) and the way of nature (represented by Brad Pitt); the couple are the mother and father of the Malick stand-in who grows up to be Sean Penn. Users who click through can then sift through the Viewfinder-ish images and watch short clips from the film.

As we wrote a while back, Malick and cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki shot the film in a highly unconventional way, the fruits of which are on display here, particularly in the ethereal naturalist scenes. What's also starting to become noticeable is how much sound plays a role in the film's distinctiveness.

Searchlight Co-President Nancy Utley told 24 Frames in December that the company will build anticipation with a fanboy-esque campaign. "We're going to try to keep people interested by releasing a still or a clip, keep the ball in play with different glimpses along the way," she said.

It's not easy to market an art-house film as an event -- even the most commercial ones, such as "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," often become events after the fact. But the innate Malick interest and the mystery created by the marketing campaign is starting to give it that "Inception"-for-cinephiles feeling.

--Steven Zeitchik



'Tree of Life' cinematographer: 'It was like no set I've ever worked on'

First footage of 'The Tree of Life' exceeds expectations

Fox Searchlight looks to make 'Tree of Life' an event

 Photo: "The Tree of Life." Credit: Fox Searchlight