See Drawings for The Tree of Life’s Abandoned Adam and Eve Sequence

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 3 2012 9:06 AM

The Tree of Life Originally Included Adam and Eve

tree-of-life2
Clockwise from the top: Tye Sheridan, Brad Pitt, Laramie Eppler, and Jessica Chastain.

©2011 - Fox Searchlight Pictures

Over the long weekend, storyboard artist Mark Bristol posted and then took down drawings he did for The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick’s ambitious and acclaimed (though not universally admired) movie about the beginning and apparent end of the universe as well as the Texas childhood of a boy much like Malick himself. Bristol also worked on The Thin Red Line, and posted storyboards for that movie earlier this year. What was striking about the Tree of Life art, however, was that it depicted a sequence that did not appear in the theatrical cut of the film: The drawings portrayed Adam and Eve and their sons Cain, Abel, and Seth.

David Haglund David Haglund

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

Given the title of the movie, it’s not entirely surprising that Malick considered including the Biblical first family: In Genesis, after Adam and Eve acquire knowledge of good and evil, God boots them out of Eden lest they “take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.” Indeed, Malick may have abandoned the sequence because it felt redundant: The great middle section of the movie also centers on a father and mother and three boys, one of whom is cruel (albeit not murderous) to another.

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On the other hand, a section devoted to Adam and Eve might have provided a missing link (so to speak) between the movie’s notorious dinosaur-centric passages and its 20th-century storyline. It’s clear from Bristol’s drawings that Malick’s Adam and Eve story was more Darwin-friendly than the standard Biblical version: Adam appears hairy and apelike, and one drawing shows an “old man” behind Eve and Abel (this Adam is not literally the first human, in other words). In another image we see “fire from another tribe” off in the distance. And the whole sequence is set by Lake Turkana, a body of water in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley that is “central to the human story” and “holds the world’s richest record of human prehistory.”

All of which suggests another reason Malick could have abandoned the sequence: A section portraying separate man-ape tribes might have taken the movie’s parallels with 2001 a bit too far.

Bristol says on his website that a “friend on the film” asked him to take down the Tree of Life drawings, and so we have not reproduced them here. As of this morning, at least, you can still see a few at the Playlist, /Film, and elsewhere. And perhaps elements of the sequence will surface in the six-hour version of the movie Malick is supposedly considering.

A humble suggestion: If Malick hasn’t already filmed the sequence, perhaps he could take some time out of his uncharacteristically busy schedule and head over to Kenya with Mickey Rourke—who could give a powerful performance, I think, as an apelike Adam. That might help make up for what happened with The Thin Red Line.

Further reading: Slate’s Movie Club, which has just gotten started, has already included some discussion of The Tree of Life—with more sure to come.