Too Much Of A Good Thing? Terrence Malick Apparently Preparing 6 Hour Cut Of 'The Tree Of Life'

by Kevin Jagernauth
June 17, 2011 1:03 AM
11 Comments
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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.

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More: Films, Terrence Malick, The Tree Of Life

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11 Comments

  • John | August 23, 2011 3:54 AMReply

    I saw Malick's The Tree of Life many times through the eyes of grace. But when you see it through the eyes of nature, one time is just enough to get the kind of joke his film is.

    http://reviewingtreeoflife.blogspot.com/

    A six hour version? Give me a break, Malick...

  • Eric | June 18, 2011 4:38 AMReply

    @Xian

    Gerry is my favorite of those Gus Van Sant films you mentioned. I can easily get lost in the quiet beauty of that film. Paranoid Park is similar to that style too for Gus Van Sant.

  • Xian | June 17, 2011 7:40 AMReply

    I'm looking forward to seeing the current theatrical cut (even in L.A. it's only playing in chi-chi-frou-frou art house theaters at the moment, not the chains), but at 6 hours... Well, let's put it this way, entertainment does NOT have to be dumb, but it doesn't have to be an endurance test either. I recently sat through two of Gus Van Sant's esoteric experimental films ("Elephant", and "Last Days"... but not "Gerry", yet), and though they were at time beautiful to look at and lyrical at best... often, it felt like a slog to get through them for lack of narrative coherence (and I love a cinematic challenge)... and those only last about an hour-and-a-half each. I love Malick, but don't see how one could sit through six hours of him trying to work out his childhood issues no matter how beautiful the images or insanely great the lyrical aspects of his filmmaking and overall philosophies. You'd need one helluva intermission somewhere in there, at least... and even then, I think by the end most folks would be aching to get out and, y'know, see the sun or something, y'know? Sometimes, too much of a good thing can be bad for us... and one man's over-indulgence can be the equivalent of showing endless vacation slides to guests at a party.

  • ryan | June 17, 2011 5:46 AMReply

    you're welcome for the tip ;-)

  • Pg13myass | June 17, 2011 5:22 AMReply

    If this is true, I hope it'll be a criterion release! Definite buy for me then!

  • Edward Davis | June 17, 2011 4:01 AMReply

    Right, Lubezki, my bad. And right, he worked on the Burial too. Forgot that. Malick usually puts his music peep through the ringer and they never work with him twice. Desplat is not working on that again, is he?

  • Spelling bee | June 17, 2011 3:58 AMReply

    It's Lubezki, with a "Z."


    Also, he has worked on 3 Malick films, including "The Burial" or whatever it's going to be called.

  • Edward Davis | June 17, 2011 2:47 AMReply

    sorry, "this is what [they, the editing team with Malick] watched."

  • Edward Davis | June 17, 2011 2:45 AMReply

    @Fanny

    If we take Chivo Lubeski's comments at face value -- and let's say we do for now -- this is totally different.

    There is no 5 hr cut of the Thin Red Line. That was the assembly cut. I.e. they patched all the raw footage together of what they wanted to include to malick and said, "ok, here's what we've got." This is what we watched.

    like that 8 hr cut of Tree of LIfe. That's an assembly cut of all the footage they want to use and they show it and start whittling down.

    BUT Malick wanting to go back and make a 6hr cut of "Tree Of Life" is completely different from the 5 hr "Thin Red Line" assembly cut. People assume a 5 hr cut exists somewhere -- it does certainly not.

    Again, that's just how much the total of footage they had. It was not mixed, had no music, wasn't color corrected or even really edited. Just basically stitched together in raw form and then they go, "ok, we start from here, right?"

    So yeah, just had to make that clear.

    If his is true and considering it comes from the cinematographer who worked on two Malick films now (the only cinematographer who has worked with him on two film back to back), it seems likely to be true unless the translation is all wrong, they are two totally separate and different things. Don't confuse the two.

  • Peter Labuza | June 17, 2011 2:22 AMReply

    What's interesting is that it's not the choldhood stuff that needs more elucidation, but all that Sean Penn junk that feels unnecessary at the moment and could use some grounding.

  • fanny bunz | June 17, 2011 1:58 AMReply

    never gonna happen. just like the 5 hour cut of thin red line. no one will ever see this except the editors.

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