In my review of Terence Malick’s Tree of Life I said that I would happily watch the movie again on Blu-ray, but I would skip the Sean Penn bookends. Those scenes alternately baffled and irritated me, and they feel like a millstone around the neck of a masterpiece. Turns out Penn sort of agrees with me.
In an interview with Le Figaro, Penn says:
I didn’t at all find on the screen the emotion of the script, which is the most magnificent one that I’ve ever read. A clearer and more conventional narrative would have helped the film without, in my opinion, lessening its beauty and its impact. Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing there and what I was supposed to add in that context! What’s more, Terry himself never managed to explain it to me clearly.
There’s plenty of wonderful emotion in the film, but none of it is in Penn’s weird and disjointed segment. I would be interested in checking out the original script, just to get a better idea of what Malick was trying to do with the bookends.
Kudos to Penn for being so honest, even though some feel he’s just bitching about having large swaths of his work cut from the film.