Italian Cinema Shows 'Tree of Life' Out of Order and No One Notices

June 8, 2011
Source: Corriere di Bologna

The Tree of Life

This is just a fun story for those that love hearing some amusing film news from around the world. I caught on Twitter last night via @theangrymick that an Italian movie theater named Lumière apparently played Terrence Malick's new film The Tree of Life for a full week out of order, but no one really noticed. They provide a link to a translated article on an Italian news site (Corriere di Bologna) where it says that the first two reels (in projectionist speak, each reel is a 22 minute portion of the film) were swapped, but the film ran for a full week before anyone even realized what was wrong until they went to see it again at another theater.

The translation is a bit hard to understand, it refers to reels as "rollers", and some sentences make no sense. But the story begins when the theater decided to show the "original" version of The Tree of Life from Cannes in English with Italian subtitles - later comes a dubbed version and most would rather see the "original." They go on to say "[only to] discover, after a week of screenings, scenes were not exactly in the sequence designed by Malick and his editors." The first two reels were switched and even though the film starts with production logos and a biblical quote, audiences seemed to think that was just part of Malick's crazy editing.

"Those who had read something on The Tree of Life, knew that the plot was traveling from present to past and then, seeing [it in] the Lumière, did not [say] anything after. But some doubt the projectionists had come, because the logo of the distribution appeared after almost half an hour. And besides that also a quote, which is usually in the head. None of them had even seen the work (projected only to Cannes) and so they had no clear evidence to say that something was wrong. Just a feeling. Strong enough to move the logo to the top of the distribution. Apart from that small correction, the projection odd went on for a week."

So how did they figure it out? Apparently some guy first noticed it reading on Facebook. "Until someone pointed it to him: Facebook. Movie buffs that after watching the original version were then returned to see (in other [theaters]) dubbed in Italian, and [the truth was revealed]. The Lumière ran for cover (also discovering that the rollers had been marked incorrectly by the distributors), but none, however, protested the 'creative' error." What an odd story. The article claims the Lumière in Bologna, Italy also had the same issue with Malick's The Thin Red Line when they showed that in 1998, but "noticed it almost immediately." I guess it just goes to show how the very abstract, surreal nature of the storytelling and imagery in The Tree of Life is so trippy, that it can play out of sequence and some unknowing audiences won't even realize it at all.

Next time, Malick needs to visit that theater in Italy himself to make sure everything is correct, as he's going to be quite unhappy if he ever hears this news. I don't think the instructions for projectionists helped either.

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Hey Alex ths is the second time you've refered to this film as "surreal", which it is not. You might want to check out some surrealist art to get a better idea. Also I'd beg to differ calling the film "abstract"'as well. Every image in the film depicts exactly what it is refering to, even if it is without dialogue. If you want to see something that might count as abstract check out some films by James Benning, David Gatten, Stan Brakhage for that matter. No offence---Just sayin!

Khrodos on Jun 8, 2011


Actualy a great example of abstract film is best exemplified by Oskar Flischinger. And the best example of a surreal film is Bunuel's Andalusian Dog

Khrodos on Jun 8, 2011


Don't worry, I'm familiar with surrealist art, Dali is one of my favorite artists and he was a big surrealist. I understand what you're saying by it not being surreal (at least with the in Texas story), I guess what I meant about it having some surreal qualities is the way he integrated the bigger picture of the universe and that imagery (all of those visuals) within the more straight-forward Texas storyline. For example, the upside-down shots of the shadows of the kids playing, to me seems more of a surrealist idea than it does to just show shadows flipped over. I don't know, those are just my thoughts about it. Plus, the film is unquestionably an abstract film, that really can't be argued. This is why Tree of Life is such an intriguing film, as it opens the door for discussion in so many ways, especially in regards to how each individual person perceives the film. I think that's what makes Malick's films so unique and specifically TOL, is that everyone will have their own different experience.

Alex Billington on Jun 8, 2011


Actually each reel can be as long as 22 minutes but is typically less - usually around 18 minutes and some times as little as 10 minutes - depending on where the best place for a reel change to occur based on picture/audio.

knowitall on Jun 9, 2011


Oh man, that is awesome!  It's true, too.  I loved it but order wasn't really that necessary.  Here is the best review I have read of this movie - from a Finnish film reviewer attempting to write in English (badly).  It's great.

Anonymous on Jun 9, 2011


I had this happen to me with the Karate Kid Part 3 (I know, its embarassing).  The theater was full, but I was the only person who complained that they showed the movie out of order (reel 1, then 3, then 2, then 4).  It made a bad movie even worse.  They gave me a free ticket and asked to come back and watch it in order.  I took the ticket, but didnt rewatch the movie!

Guest on Jun 9, 2011

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