In Contention


Nolan and Fincher on the impression left by Malick

Posted by Kristopher Tapley · 7:32 pm · June 15th, 2011

Those are three heavyweight names to stuff into one headline, but thanks to some shrewd marketing on the part of Fox Searchlight Pictures, it’s a reality.

Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” continues to roll out in its platform release, landing in a boatload of new cities this weekend. As the film prepares to go wider, the studio has tapped the thoughts of filmmakers Christopher Nolan and David Fincher to get their perspective on the famed auteur.

“His work is immediately recognizable, but it’s very tough to put your finger on why that is,” Nolan says in a new featurette launched at Apple. “The technique is not immediately obvious.”

Fincher, meanwhile, notes that “with Malick, you’re seeing something that was thought about and meditated over. You’re seeing someone who’s making choices that are specifically designed to evoke a feeling.”

Both directors also comment on the performances of Malick films, which was an interesting point of a debate around these parts recently. Says Nolan, “There is something very uniquely expressive about those performances,” while Fincher mentions that actors who work with Malick are looking to “disappear into the fabric of something else.”

Check out the featurette in high definition at Apple or watch the embed below:

[Photo: Fipresci]




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→ 21 Comments Tags: , , , | Filed in: Daily

21 responses so far

  • 1 6-15-2011 at 7:55 pm

    DylanS said...

    Wow, two of the best directors of their generation (and 2 of my personal faves) on one of the best of another generation. And three visionaries at that!

    Also, when getting into the debate about Malick’s ability with actors. Nolan and Fincher were two other names that sprung to mind as directors who are visionaries, but also get good and occasionaly great performances from their actors. But under my definition of an “actors director”, I wouldn’t consider any of them to be one.

    Fincher, in particular, is not sympathetic towards actors, as I heard interviews with Jake Gyllenhaal during “Zodiac” where he talked about how Fincher would do 20 takes of a scene, turn to the camera operator, and say “delete those last 20 takes”. His methods clearly work, but jeez, ty=hat’s gotta be tough to hear as an actor.

  • 2 6-15-2011 at 8:14 pm

    Mike_M said...

    cant wait to watcth this, Fincher and Malick are 2 of my favorite directors and Nolan is a few notches down…

    Trying to hold off a few weeks for ToL to play in a multi-plex by me I need to see it on a huge screen, tough to resist the temptation of the 2 local art houses

  • 3 6-15-2011 at 8:21 pm

    Speaking English said...

    As far as the performances are concerned, I don’t think Jessica Chastain is being given nearly enough credit. Her work in the film is perhaps the most emotive of all the key actors, and the feelings she’s able to convey through that meticulous, fragile face and body language is astounding. You wouldn’t even notice she barely talks, because her presence is so rich. In many ways, she is just as good as Pitt and McCracken, certainly as relevant.

  • 4 6-15-2011 at 8:23 pm

    Chris138 said...

    Cool video. I knew that Nolan had cited Malick as an influence before but it’s interesting to hear Fincher’s thoughts on him as well. I’m looking forward to seeing The Tree of Life again tomorrow.

  • 5 6-15-2011 at 8:36 pm

    James D. said...

    “with Malick, you’re seeing something that was thought about and meditated over. You’re seeing someone who’s making choices that are specifically designed to evoke a feeling.”

    Shouldn’t all directors try to do that? Don’t we assume that all directors already do that?

  • 6 6-15-2011 at 8:48 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Here’s the quote that got me, from Nolan:

    “Malick’s influence on my work, is very clear.”

    Maybe I’m just ignorant, but…huh? I can’t see any of Malick’s style informing Chris Nolan’s films.

  • 7 6-15-2011 at 8:52 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Nolan is referring to Malick’s breaking/reinvention of traditional narrative, dipping nonchalantly in and out of dreams and memories as if they were a fluid extension of the main plot (see, “Memento”).

    I agree with you their styles are extremely different, though.

  • 8 6-15-2011 at 8:56 pm

    Chris138 said...

    If this helps any, here’s a quote from movieline.com that Nolan said during his Q & A session with Guillermo del Toro when discussing Memento.

    “I also see a lot of attempt to do what I saw Terrence Malick doing, in terms of the portrayal of mental states and memory. If you watch The Thin Red Line, that was a revelation to me. He’s cutting to memories and flashbacks with simple cuts; there are no wavy lines or dissolves. There are moments [in Memento] where Guy’s character is remembering his wife that were taken very much from that film.”

    Overall, I do agree that they have very different styles, but I can see what he’s talking about there.

  • 9 6-15-2011 at 8:59 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “Shouldn’t all directors try to do that? Don’t we assume that all directors already do that?”

    Not really, because I think you’re missing what he’s saying. Malick’s films are so much more about the tone, atmosphere and feeling than they are about the narrative, and they are carefully cultivated to be as much. That’s a singular hallmark of his work that doesn’t stretch to all filmmakers.

    Nice quote, Chris.

  • 10 6-16-2011 at 11:33 am

    Filipe said...

    Honestly, some people think that Nolan is a sell-out to blockbusters and that Inception is as derivative as The Dark Knight sucked.
    And I’ve seen someone say that Fincher lost his mind since Zodiac and wasn’t able to make a good movie ever since, and yeah, I’m pretty sure some people hate Fight Club too.
    I pity those people for not being able to appreciate the work of two of the greatest directors of this generation.

  • 11 6-16-2011 at 8:47 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    I just read on Film Stage that Malick is preparing a six hour cut of TOL. Can this possibly be true or did some wiseguy on IMDB just incorrectly translate Lubezki for kicks?

  • 12 6-16-2011 at 11:18 pm

    Glenn said...

    They’ve been saying there was a 4hr “New World” cut as well, but that never eventuated.

  • 13 6-17-2011 at 8:45 am

    James D. said...

    Filipe: Fight Club is terrible. Nolan has one good movie, The Dark Knight, and Fincher has Zodiac and The Social Network. I think there are plenty of filmmakers that are much better than those two. I can think of probably twenty or so English-language directors that turn out better films on a consistent basis.

  • 14 6-17-2011 at 2:54 pm

    Fitz said...

    @James D.

    Do feel free to name all of them.

  • 15 6-18-2011 at 5:17 pm

    James D. said...

    Coens, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Sofia Coppola, Woody Allen, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Terrence Malick, Quentin Tarantino, Andrew Dominik, Spike Leigh, Werner Herzog, Richard Linklater, Gus Van Sant, Steven Soderbergh, Lars von Trier, Charlie Kaufman, Roman Polanski, Ramin Bahrani, Harmony Korine.

    There are more than twenty, though.

  • 16 6-18-2011 at 7:28 pm

    DylanS said...

    James D. half of these people aren’t American directors. And while you’re certainly entitled to your own opinion, but some of the directors who you place above Nolan and Fincher are Laughable.

  • 17 6-18-2011 at 9:27 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Nobody said they had to be American, in James D.’s defense.

  • 18 6-19-2011 at 4:00 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I wasn’t aware that only Americans can be “English-language directors”.

    I didn’t find any of James D’s choices Laughable (or even laughable), though I did disagree with some of them. It can be done. Let’s not be needlessly combative. (That extends to empty supposed statements of fact such as “Fight Club is terrible”, which don’t exactly further the conversation, though we’re all guilty of making them occasionally.)

  • 19 6-19-2011 at 8:13 am

    DylanS said...

    You’re absolutely right, Guy. I totally misinterpreted “English language” as American directors (completely forgetting the fact that Nolan himself is British).

    And in regards to finding some of the choices laughable, I think most of them, while disagreeable, are totally fair names to throw around in the conversation with Nolan and Fincher. I was referring to Coppola, mostly, because she’s yet to make a film that’s great in my book. Sure, “Lost in Translation” is unique, but I find it overrated, minus the Murray/Johansson performances, and her other three films are very forgettable. I feel like that’s a pretty thin filmography to hold up to Nolan and Fincher’s body of work, let alone compare to theirs as being better.

  • 20 6-19-2011 at 12:47 pm

    James D. said...

    I was simply responding to Filipe saying he had pity for people who did not like the same filmmakers he likes. I could go more in depth as to why I think both men are vastly overrated, or why Fight Club is terrible, but I don’t think that was the point.

  • 21 6-19-2011 at 1:00 pm

    James D. said...

    I often find that fans of Nolan, and to a lesser extent Fincher, are often obnoxious when they hear others might not like them too. I included Sofia Coppola on my list because I think she is one of the great directors, but I don’t think everyone else should be pitied if they disagree. I find both Fincher and Nolan to be essentially mediocre and middlebrow. Fincher has made two very good movies (Zodiac, The Social Network), but Benjamin Button was lacking any sort of soul. The parts of The Dark Knight with The Joker on the screen are great, but the rest of his filmography puts me to sleep.