Making a rare public appearance at a Q&A at the SXSW film festival on Saturday, filmmaker Terrence Malick followed up the premiere of his new film “Song to Song” with a Q&A session about the project.
Shot for 40 days throughout Austin in Texas, days were said to be long with only a 30-minute break for lunch. As a result the first cut of the film came in WAY longer than the 129 minute theatrical version. Speaking with moderator Richard Linklater, Malick says:
“With new cameras, you can quickly accumulate a lot of footage. We had an eight-hour first cut. We thought, ‘Is this a mini-series?’ It really could have been. It took a long time to cut it down to a manageable length.”
Malick started making the movie in 2012, but it has taken years to get it down to its current length. Actors were even shot in cars, moving from one location to the next, just in case it turned into something.
This follows Malick’s unconventional process who “keeps rolling to keep it spontaneous” and as a result likes to portray ‘bits and pieces’ of his characters’ lives as opposed to a traditional narrative:
“You never know at the end of the day what you actually got. The editing takes a longer time than usual. You have to ask the patience of the studio or the financier. Sometimes more than once.
If you try to make things happen, they start to feel presented. The action has been premeditated. It starts to feel like theater, which is wonderful in its own right. But you don’t want the movies to be like theater.”
One person who is in the film, but only very briefly, is Val Kilmer as a rock star and Malick regrets he didn’t use him more: “We shot so much more than we finally used. We’re very sorry not to use more of his stuff.”
Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett pop in and out of the film, Malick revealing that the most specific piece of direction he gave Fassbender was to channel Satan in John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”.
Multiple reviews for the film are out with the movie scoring a decidedly mixed reaction – but one totally in line with Malick’s little seen recent efforts like “To the Wonder” and “Knight of Cups” than more successful and iconic works like “The Thin Red Line” and “The Tree of Life”.