Lighting makes a d.p. the creator of his own universe. We can make the sun’s rays pierce a window to bathe a room in warm luminosity, or have moonlight move amongst the shadows, instilling mystery and the fear of the dark. I still recall the bedroom from “The Sea Inside,” which I shot for Alejandro Amenabar, built as a set, in which, each morning, we could decide whether it would be sunny or nocturnal.
“The Tree of Life” takes the opposite course. Terrence Malick’s film looks for the light that nature herself gives us. And if a room needs dusk, he orients his space so that the warm rays of the actual sun flood the scene with its truth. To me, the work of Emmanuel Lubezki on this unforgettable film is an extraordinary, impassioned demonstration of this. It’s the hunt for the sublime moment, nearly impossible to manufacture. It’s the patient waiting for the best moment of light, in the face of losing everything.
This way of making films might lead us to a discussion about how to face other ones; but I don’t think it will. “The Tree of Life” is unique in its perfection. It’s a masterpiece on the act of walking the path of nature. And an example for those who, like me, see light as the stuff of life itself.
Javier Aguirresarobe, known for his work with Woody Allen, Pedro Almodovar and on two of the “Twilight” movies, is the d.p. behind “A Better Life.”