Recently on episode 273 of Sound On Sight Radio, Justine, Simon and I, all gave Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life a rave review. However I did have one major complaint. Personally for me, I felt that the theatrical cut of his film was too short. What was originally a four and a half hour film was chopped into a two and a half hour cut, leaving me to wonder if there was more of Sean Penn’s scenes missing. Perhaps the only major complaint I had with the film was that Penn’s scenes didn’t grab me since he was hardly in the picture. Towards the end of our review, I brought up the fact that I would be very interested in seeing Malick’s director’s cut before calling it a potential masterpiece, as some have already done.
Well, despite three or four years in post production, it appears that Malick isn’t through tinkering with the film just yet.
In an interview with the latest edition of Les Cahiers du Cinéma, as part of an extensive feature about The Tree Of Life, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubeski mentioned that Malick is planning a six hour cut of the film. 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 !
When asked about his untitled romantic drama, Lubezki reiterated the experimental style, saying “he [Malick] tries to move away from all the things cinema depends on…and he tries to find the purest way to make films.” His next film “isn’t more abstract, but it tries to be pure cinema. It is even less narrative, in the dramatic sense, than The Tree of Life. The method we use is more and more risky, perilous, destructive.”
It’s typical of Malick, who has is notorious for going back to the editing room after his films are released. His last feature, The New World, first screened for critics in a 150-minute cut, before he added a different narration and additional footage for the theatrical run. Later he released a 172-minute Extended Cut on DVD and BluRay (which I highly recommend watching).
Apparently he has 600k meters (364.5 hours) of film to work with, which is pretty insane. While I was demanding a longer cut, I really think six hours is quite a stretch, and would work against the picture’s brilliant pacing. It’s also interesting to note that the section Malick is choosing to expand is actually the most “straightforward” aspect of the entire film. The question remains that if he does indeed release a longer version, how long exactly would it take considering he has two more films in the works, one of which is set for release next year.