Bram Ruiter’s review published on Letterboxd :
Fourth viewing. This time in 4:3 and black and white, because I wondered what taking away colour and the wide frame would do to the splendour of the film. I know, pure heresy, but humour me for a bit here.
My reasoning behind this altered viewing began as a study of Malick’s use of light and movement. This morning I watched most of it with the sound off to be more aware of the editing, how the images flow. And I wondered by cranking up the contrast and dialling down the colours, how Malick’s shadowplay would turn up. Except I got to experience the film in a whole new way.
What resulted was a much more claustrophobic and bleak experience. It would’ve been interesting to widen the frame and slowly introduce colour around the Natalie Portman scenes, but everything before that felt aptly cramped and desaturated. Especially the party scene up in the tower benefitted a lot from this effect. The woman crawling over the floor, the comfetti on the floor now just white blots of a party that once was and is somehow still going. Even Malick’s tendency to “torpedo” the scenes had more impact with a smaller frame: Bale’s space was constantly invaded by outsiders, pushing him to the fringes in the intended aspect ratio, but now cut him off in weird ways that felt intrusive. The mansion party specifically was a great example of this “torpedoing”, where the tiny frame was exhaustingly cluttered.
I wouldn’t use these effects on all of Malick’s films, but removing the BEAUTY of Chivo’s imagery felt appropriate for this one, even if it wasn’t intended to be viewed in this way.