Moving Images

Game of Thrones

Years ago, when I first started reading George RR Martin’s series, I found immediate comparisons with HBO’s The Sopranos. The sex, violence and backstabbing in Westeros was right on par with Tony, Paulie, Christopher and the rest of the Jersey crew. Luckily, plenty of folks with dollars thought the same thing, and here we are, years later, with the first season wrapped and another on the way. I will say – it could not have been better. The casting is pitch-perfect; the aesthetics of the lands and cultures are right on. Even the dialog has been tightened, so Tyrion’s quips are still just as sharp, Arya’s just as feisty, Daenery’s just as regal, but we can fit a 1000 pages in 10 hours. I would trade half the sexposition scenes for larger battles, but hey, it’s not television, it’s HBO. Bonus: Dance with Dragons is actually getting released this year!

Tree of Life

I’m not sure if it’s an actual quote, but I’ve always thought “All film is fiction”. What that means is that film will always be a substitute for reality, as much as it attempts to mirror it. There will always be a hint of the unreal, whether it’s the makeup on the actor’s face, the artificial lighting, awkward dialog, or even the pace of editing during post-production. Malick’s own films understand the gap can’t be truly bridged, and instead of going in the conventional directions, either towards theatrical performance (via dialog, scenery chewing acting) or gritty reality (hand-held camera, natural lighting), he goes for hyper-reality: visions that would only exist in dreams.

Tree of Life has both the grandest scope and the most intimate focus of all his films, contrasting a montage of childhood snippets from 1950s Texas with the very creation of the universe. The central question: does life follow the way of nature (a stern father, the elemental forces of the universe); or the way of grace (an angelic mother; an afterlife of reunions on an endless beach). The cinematography and editing are incredible, of course, but it’s the way Malick can pull central questions of morality from images of trees and rivers that really give the film weight. For the young boy, those suburban lawns and woodlands are Eden – we see him tempted with the Apple of choice, freedom and selfishness. We see his pride and guilt and sadness. We see him exiled from that garden, and years later, his sullen self, lost in an urban wasteland of towering steel and glass. Is there a way back?

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