Terrence Malick may be done with "The Tree Of Life," but "The Tree Of Life" ain’t done with him. Or something like that. With the film already stamped with the Palme d’Or and rolling out across the country adding a bunch of new cities this weekend it appears that Malick isn’t through tinkering with the film just yet.
In an interview with the latest edition of high brow fancypants film magazine Les Cahiers du Cinéma (via The Film Stage), as part of an extensive feature about "The Tree Of Life," cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki reveals that Malick is still playing with the 300 plus miles footage he shot for the picture and cutting a six hour version of the movie. Here’s what he had to say (roughly translated by IMDB user nlvg):
Does Malick think about editing when he’s filming ? We speak about it almost everytime. But most of the ideas about the editing we share on the set don’t make the final cut.
We maybe have been shot 600.000 metres (around 370 miles) of film
The first cut was 8 hours long. Terry is working on/preparing a 6 hours long version of the movie. What I’ve seen (of this) is absolutely incredible, it’s wonderful. The longer version will have to/will likely, for the most part, relate to the children part. There were outstanding things, we’ve shot many, many things about Jack’s childhood : his friends, his evolution, his changes, his awareness of the loss of his childhood… I don’t know if I’m supposed to say all of this!
Of course, this isn’t the first time Malick has gone back to the editing bay after a movie has been released. His last effort, "The New World," first screened for critics in a 150-minute cut, before being revised — with slightly different narration and some new footage — into a shorter, 135-minute theatrical cut. Then, a longer 172-minute "Extended Cut" was released on DVD and BluRay. So could we be in for a treat when "The Tree Of Life" goes to home video? Better start saving those pennies now.
It’s interesting to note that the section Malick is choosing to expand is actually the most "straightforward" aspect of the entire film. Granted, more of the cosmos stuff will appear in the still gestating documentary "Voyage Of Time" but with "The Tree Of Life" his most clearly autobiographical film to date — we discuss that at length here — it’s perhaps not too surprising he’s continuing to mine the portion of the film closest to his heart. In fact, in a lovely article that appeared in The Millions, it’s revealed that Malick quietly screened "The Tree Of Life" in his hometown of Bartlesville, Oklahoma for his 99-year old mother Irene recently. Those who have seen the film already won’t be too shocked to hear that his father Emil, did not attend.
But six hours? The film succeeds because of its lyrical, enigmatic nature. One that captures the mixed feelings of childhood — joy, rebellion, jealousy, anger, love — in a structure that’s almost like stumbling across an incomplete set of home movies. Spelling it out much, much further would seem somewhat like overkill. Of course, there is probably undoubtedly all kinds of deleted or extended scenes — one reader whose late father was cast as an extra told us there was an entire day spent shooting a courtroom scene that in the theatrical cut lasts barely thirty seconds — and we can only imagine how much footage was captured as Malick searched for his "moments." It almost seems like six hours would be too much of a good thing, but given half the chance, we’d be the first to watch it.
So yet another curious chapter added to the lore of "The Tree Of Life" and career of Terrence Malick. In addition to this, he’s still got the untitled romance with Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams, another film he might shoot later this summer and "Voyage Of Time" all cooking so we’ll eagerly await whatever comes next from the director.