Among the trailers shown during the Sorrento Film Festival days dedicated to the industry, was a foretaste of Terrence Malick‘s new film, which until now had been shrouded in mystery. Starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, The Tree of Life was initially scheduled for this year’s Cannes Festival, then announced for Venice, but stalled once more due to endless production issues caused by Malick‘s legendary perfectionism.

This time it looks as if the film is finally ready to be shown at next year’s Cannes in May, and released worldwide soon afterwards.

From the first glimpses we got here in Sorrento, the new film has all the hallmarks of Malick‘s earlier works, with his customary shifts between past and present, between town and country, nature and civilisation, as we follow the daily business of a father of two (Pitt), and then the arrival of another man (Penn), visibly alienated by the pressures of city life around him.

Images of swirling water, brilliant shafts of light, hands combing silently through the grass, each scene layered with a languorous, doleful soundtrack. The last image turns upward to the sky filtered through the interwoven branches of a tree in which two children play in happy oblivion. This is undiluted Malick: the return to the primeval elements of life as a means of reaching inner peace.

Although it is hard to judge from these few sequences how the plot will actually unfold, the narrative pivots on the character Jack, played by Penn, and follows his progression from the innocence of childhood to the first pangs of grief, documenting how he gradually come to terms with life and with his past.

Given that Malick‘s films tend to leave a sense of aching bewilderment, the trailer is tantalising, to say the least.