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.
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.
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.”
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.