Prehistoric Compassion

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 14 2012 @ 9:14pm

by Zoë Pollock

On a panel with Roger Ebert, Michael Fink, the man behind the CGI dinosaurs in Terence Malick's The Tree of Life, confirmed what we all believed:

The premise of the four-shot scene was to depict the birth of consciousness (what some have called the "birth of compassion") — the first moment in which a living creature made a conscious decision to choose what Michael described as "right from wrong, good from evil." Or, perhaps, a form of altruism over predatory instinct. Here's the relevant passage from a 2007 draft of Malick's screenplay:

Reptiles emerge from the amphibians, and dinosaurs in turn from the reptiles. Among the dinosaurs we discover the first signs of maternal love, as the creatures learn to care for each other. Is not love, too, a work of the creation? What should we have been without it? How had things been then? Silent as a shadow, consciousness has slipped into the world.

Previous Dish on the film here and here.