Terrence Malick's 'Voyage of Time' Screening Draws Rachel McAdams, Ashley Greene (But Not Brad Pitt)

Courtesy of TIFF

"It's for families; it's for everyone, but it's a little less on the nose and it's a little bit more magical than some of our previous documentaries," IMAX chief Greg Foster says.

"There is nothing as epic as the creation of the world," IMAX chief executive Greg Foster told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday night outside the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Waiting just off the red carpet, Foster was referring to Terrence Malick's Voyage of Time: An IMAX Experience, which took more than 30 years to make. The movie — which was screened Wednesday night for an audience that included Rachel McAdams, Brittany Snow, Ashley Greene and Beau Bridges — marks the first documentary from the reclusive Malick (Tree of Life). It covers the entire history of time in a unique way; in true Malick fashion, the film is chronological overall but interspersed with quick flashes of scenes from elsewhere on the timeline.

Vibrant images of the ever-scanning human eyeball, magma solidifying into rock and even the explosion of a star are mixed with soft, subtle images such as water lapping over shallow rocks in a quiet fog-filled bay, a girl in a field picking dandelions and dust simply drifting through space. Brad Pitt, the film's narrator, guides the viewer through these images in what might be best described as a "show, don't tell" manner. When Pitt begins speaking on the life-giving property of light, he simply starts by saying, "light." At that point, a shimmering light fades into view, illuminating a large sphere of circling fish. Unlike nature documentaries that involve heavy explanation, Pitt's narration is instead more philosophical, presenting open-ended questions to the viewer in the form of a few words or sentences.

(Pitt opted not to attend the screening amid his split with wife Angelina Jolie, saying earlier in the week that he is "currently focused on my family situation and [don’t] want to distract attention away from this extraordinary film, which I encourage everyone to see.")

Of the film's unique format, producer Sophokles Tasioulis said Malick "treats it in a very different way than your typical BBC director. For them, it’s much more about trying to cover every single aspect of an animal, of a species, what it eats. Terry [Malick] is much more inspirational, much more about getting to you from a very different angle."

Having produced the nature documentaries Earth and Blue Planet, Tasioulis was perhaps the only member of the team with experience in nature documentary filmmaking. "I’m a specialist for tough projects," he said, laughing. Nevertheless, he was excited to work on the film, and especially with  Malick. "We all want to be inspired, we all want to be on an emotional journey, and that’s always tough on documentaries," he said. "I think Terry has a very good way of delivering us this emotional journey."

Dan Glass supervised the visual effects for Voyage of Time. "Terry is a unique filmmaker," he said just before entering the theater. "Not a technical filmmaker for sure, more of an emotional filmmaker." In addition to working with Malick on Tree of Life, Glass has worked on a number of other films, including The Matrix, Cloud Atlas, The Master, V for Vendetta, Batman Begins and The Hateful Eight. With the documentary, "We would sometimes find ways to communicate through music or talk about philosophy, which I can promise you is very rare on some of the other projects I’ve worked on."

Voyage of Time will be released in two versions on Oct. 7: the 45-minute IMAX version narrated by Pitt and a 90-minute, 35-millimeter version narrated by Cate Blanchett. Production took the filmmakers all around the world, shooting scenes in Iceland, Hawaii, Chile, the Southwest U.S. and many more locations.

For IMAX, Voyage of Time marks a new take on the documentary format.

"We’re trying to move away from, let’s call them ‘old school’ documentaries about whales, bears and seals that we’ve seen a lot of on The Learning Channel, Animal Planet, Discovery, etc.," said Foster. "It’s for families; it’s for everyone, but it’s a little less on the nose and it’s a little bit more magical than some of our previous documentaries."

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