Much-anticipated 'Tree of Life' divides Cannes crowd

Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" finally got to Cannes on Monday, dividing festival-goers with its spectacular photography but pensive, deeply religious storyline.

Loud boos clashed with respectful applause at the end of a morning press screening for one of the most highly-anticipated entries at the world's biggest film festival, which is mid-way through its 11-day run.

"It's about religion, nature and people - American people," one viewer told AFP on the way out, summing up the coming-of-age tale starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain set in a Texas town in the 1950s.

Malick, 67, skipped a press conference after the screening, leaving producer Sarah Green to explain to frustrated reporters: "Mr Malick is very shy, but I believe his work speaks for him."

"The Tree of Life" is among 20 films vying for the top prize of the Palme d'Or. It had been on track to screen in Cannes last year, but was pulled back at the last minute for more work by Malick and his four producers, one of whom is Pitt.

Billed as a "thought-provoking film experience" in its production notes, and many years in the making, "The Tree of Life" is only the fifth work from the enigmatic director of "Days of Heaven" and "The Thin Red Line".

Pitt plays the crew-cut father of three boys - no daughters in this family - who apart from an argument is never seen talking to his wife, portrayed by Chastain as a gentle saint-like mother.

"I was a little hesitant about playing the oppressive father, but story was so important, and for me it was really about the kids' journey," said Pitt, 47, who is raising six children with Angelina Jolie.

Penn - who was in Haiti on Monday, working with charities there - appears as the eldest son, a grown-up architect; he and Pitt only share the screen at the end in a seaside family reunion scene.

Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler and Tye Seridan are the young sons, all of whom look as if they could have been Pitt's own progeny.

Visually, the 138-minute film is stunning at every turn, including a half-hour of gripping nature imagery at the front end that is married with computer-generated depictions of outer space - plus a couple of dinosaurs which may or may not symbolise a prehistoric father and son.

Trees, solitary or in thick forests, figure prominently in many scenes. So too does the sun - is Malick drawing a link between the sun and the son? - that never fails to be at just the right angle in any given scene.

Pitt's role is easily the most mature of his career, and on Monday he described working with the "spiritualist" Malick as "a leap of faith, and that's the point... You know you are in great hands with Terry so it's not that scary".

"About 10 years ago I started to think about my favourite films," he added.

"They weren't the commercial things; they were the things with a little more depth."

But he reassured hardcore fans that he is not giving up the commercial blockbusters that have made him such a bankable star. "I'm not that highbrow," he said. "Don't count me out of 'Mission: Impossible'."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits