Terrence Malick looks to Imax documentary to extend ‘Tree of Life’ explorations


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Terrence Malick left a lot of “The Tree of Life” footage on the cutting room floor. But the writer-director’s elaborate visual presentation of the birth of the universe and the origin of life may have a second life in an Imax documentary.

The publicity-phobic maker of “The New World” and “The Thin Red Line” has been developing a documentary called “Voyage of Time.” It was originally designed as a companion piece to “Tree of Life,” which opens in Los Angeles and New York on Friday. But the producers of “Tree of Life” were concerned that two films—one fiction, one not—covering similar ground might confuse audiences, and decided to push back “Voyage of Time” to an unspecified future date.


“It was important not to cannibalize ‘Tree of Life,’” says Bill Pohlad, whose River Road Entertainment financed “Tree of Life” and is one of the producers of “Voyage of Time.” “But we want to do it. He just has to find the time to do it,” Pohlad said of Malick, who recently completed photography and several reshoots on an untitled film starring Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams that is by one account even more experimental than “Tree of Life.”

“Voyage of Time” will be narrated by “Tree of Life” star Brad Pitt and display “the whole of time, from the birth of the universe to its final collapse,” according to a confidential outline for the film obtained by The Times. A team of more than 20 advisors will “ensure the film is both aesthetically unique and scientifically accurate.”

According to a treatment for the documentary, “Voyage of Time” will cover the first signs of life, bacteria, cellular pioneers, first love, consciousness, the ascent of humanity, life and death and the end of the universe.

The business plan, heavily illustrated with images of jellyfish, crocodile embryo, nebular clouds, a slot canyon in Utah and Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, includes testimonial letters from Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, who promises that “Voyage of Time” will “be a memorable combination of art and science that will inspire as well as educate.”


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--John Horn

Sean Penn in ‘The Tree of Life.’ Credit: Merie Wallace / Fox Searchlight Pictures