One of the enduring legacies thus far for Terrence Malick's "The Tree Of Life" has been chatter about his plans to prepare an extended version of the movie. Word of it first cropped up last summer when Oscar-nominated cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki revealed, "The first cut was 8 hours long. Terry is working on/preparing a 6 hours long version of the movie." The phantom longer version gained more steam when longtime Malick editor Billy Weber said last fall, "I know Terry is doing a longer cut of 'Tree,' but we had so many scenes that were cut out that it wouldn't be that hard to put together a longer version." And well, this mysterious longer version of "The Tree Of Life" continues to crop up in conversations about the film.
Thompson On Hollywood recently sat down with Lubezki who again teased about Malick's longer edit of "The Tree Of Life," and what it might include. "I've seen cuts that were the first or second drafts of the movie," he said. "There were amazing things: much more of the children and Jessica [Chastain] and Brad [Pitt]. And you could almost make a whole other movie about Sean [Penn]. There's another side to his story. It's almost unexplored in the film."
The additional scenes from the '50s portion of the film is no surprise as both Lubezki and Weber have mentioned that previously, but the hint of more Penn is something that is a bit new. And perhaps not that much of a shocker either. The actor was critical (but still supportive) of the film last summer saying that "The Tree Of Life" would've benefitted from a more streamlined and traditional structure and that, "Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing there and what I was supposed to add in that context!" It seems all of this context was severely reduced.
All said, it appears the mysteries of "The Tree Of Life" go far beyond the currently released version (which should be noted, was his cut, despite some conspiracy theory style rumors that say otherwise) and while we doubt we'll ever see the mythic longer version of "The Tree Of Life" in our lifetime, the promise of even more textures and stories from that film, is enticing. That said, there is so much to enjoy and uncover in the film now (it needs to be seen at least twice, if not three or four times, believe us) it's hard to complain too much — and certainly not with four more Malick movies on way. So leave it to your imagination for now. The Oscars are around the corner and if there is any justice, the film will at least walk away with a cinematography prize. Here's Fox Searchlight's (disappointingly lo-res) featurette on Lubezki's work.