"It's very childlike; there's a sense of wonder, and nothing sarcastic or dry about his sense of humor," Chastain said, perhaps also explaining the appeal of the straightforward slapstick of "Zoolander." "Even if a dog is funny he'll say, 'That dog is like a clown' and just start laughing so hard the camera will shake." In this sense, Malick may be somewhat like David Lynch, who in person gives off a Midwestern dorkiness that belies the complex themes of his films.
It's not, however, as though Malick doesn't try more radical techniques. The special effects in "Tree of Life" cost tens of millions of dollars, according to one person familiar with the production. And he can do deliberately disruptive things, like send a child actor into a scene he is not slated to appear in just to "torpedo" the situation, both Pitt and Chastain said. Malick even shoved a cameraman just as a scene was beginning to get him to mix up the angle, Chastain said.