To call Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life “transcendent” almost seems like the epitome of stating the obvious. The director’s 2011 film, which was partially inspired by his own childhood growing up in Texas as well as his brother’s suicide, wrestles with the big questions — e.g., life, death, suffering, God’s existence — as seen through the eyes of a young boy. Oh, and it also explores the creation of the universe to boot, as depicted in one of cinema’s most stunning passages.
Seven years after its release, Malick and the Criterion Collection are releasing a new, digitally restored edition of The Tree of Life that includes an additional 50 minutes of footage, bringing its total runtime to over three hours. Here’s the trailer:
According to Variety, the additional footage “focuses primarily on the lives of the O’Brien family (characters played by Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain) and the backstory of Jack (Sean Penn), whose search for meaning in the wake of his brother’s death drives a transcendental quest unlike any previously depicted on film.”
As cinephiles’ imaginations race, it’s important to note: The expanded 188-minute cut doesn’t contain more effects shots, and the epic creation sequence remains untouched. But it restores material that Malick was exploring for the version that was shown in Cannes, including specific events and characters that were referenced only elliptically in the original film. Audiences will get specific insights into Mr. O’Brien’s painful upbringing, meet members of Mrs. O’Brien’s extended family, and witness a major natural catastrophe that serves as a kind of centerpiece for what Becker has been calling “the new version.”
I really want to see this new version of the film; The Tree of Life has continued to haunt, intrigue, and fascinate me ever since I first saw it at The Ross back in 2011. However, I’m hesitant to watch it again because the film left me completely gutted in multiple ways (but especially as a father), and I’m not so sure I could handle that sort of experience again.