Terrence Malick’s musing on the universe, Voyage Of Time: Life’s Journey, took a trip down the red carpet here at the Venice Film Festival last night, and was met with a standing ovation that’s been clocked at about 10 minutes. The passion project received largely positive reviews after its first press screenings and one attendee said the reaction to the premiere last night was “wild.” Producer Sophokles Tasioulis, whose nature doc credits include Earth and Deep Blue, tells me he thinks the response at the official screening was “to how it works on an emotional level. That was our hope.”
The film begins with the creation of the universe as the action moves from the cosmos to Earth and its volcanoes, city streets and underwater realms. Billed as an exploration into our planetary past and a search for humanity’s place in the future, its limited narration is courtesy of Cate Blanchett who asks a series of open questions to “Mother.” The underwater photography and creatures are particularly astounding (check out a trailer below).
Working with a team of scientific advisors and visual effects artists led by Dan Glass, Malick expands on the birth-of-the-universe sequence from his own Tree Of Life and shows an array of never-witnessed natural phenomena — celestial and terrestrial, macroscopic and microscopic — in a variety of new ways. NASA and the European Space Agency were also enlisted.
Tasioulis says Voyage wasn’t intended to be like other nature docs. “It will never be the kind of film like Disney’s Earth. Of course not, but from the cinematic experience and the original quality, it’s a trip.”
He adds, “People don’t buy cinema tickets to learn something, they buy them to make an emotional journey… You have to find a balance and entertain people but at the same time if you manage to give them something very good, it’s like going to a great restaurant and still talking about the meal a year later. With Terry as the cook, it doesn’t get much better.”
There are two versions of the film, the 90-minute pic we saw here, and the 45-minute IMAX version that Brad Pitt narrates. The longer version is more likely to attract international audiences, Tasioulis believes, and has such distributors on board as Universum in Germany, Gaga in Japan, eOne in Australia and Mars in France. Wild Bunch has international sales.
The shorter version will play in IMAX at science centers and museums and will have a somewhat more “explanatory” narration by Pitt. It screens in Toronto on Saturday with a release set for October 7 in about 40 theaters including the Smithsonian. Tasioulis believes the film should have a two-three year lifespan, “There is a lot of repeat business with these sort of films.” He adds that Malick was able to “fulfill his dream” on the 90-minute take, but was also keen to be involved in the IMAX version which was new ground.
Malick can be divisive for audiences and I did see some walkouts at the press screening I attended. But there were none last night. Tasioulis tells me he “watched the audience more than the screen” at the premiere. He is a first time Malick producer and Venice competitor who was beaming after the bow last night: “Young people will stop you on the Lido and congratulate you; if you connect to the young people, it’s quite an achievement.”
Here’s the IMAX trailer:
And here’s the trailer for the feature version: