Filming for this extended scene took place in Smithville’s (Texas) downtown area. In addition to screenshots from the Criterion film, I included a few photos from my visit in March of 2019.
While much of the filming was done in Smithville, such as the O’Brien homes, neighborhoods and alley ways, and a relatively short restaurant scene, little of the downtown area was shown in the original version with the exception of Mrs. O’Brien walking with her boys on the sidewalk nearer to the end of the original film.
This new film is by no means a standard “extended cut” in the tradition of which we’ve become familiar in trendy box sets of late. It is a “director’s cut” in the sense that the entire edit of this project was overseen by Malick, even featuring a brand new color correction by renowned DP Emmanuel Lubezki. But it feels reductive to refer to this version of the film as anything other than a new piece of work. Yes, it contains hours of the former version’s material, still meditating on much of the same scenarios, characters, and locations, but it feels imbued with a new, more muted palette, and an even closer intimacy with its subject matter, perhaps reflecting a filmmaker with different curiosities than the ones he held a over decade ago when Malick’s vision for the astral voyage was first conceived.
Included in the 50-minutes of additional footage in the Criterion Collection’s The Tree of Life is the “tornado scene”.
I visited Smithville, Texas in March of 2019 and spoke with the neighbor of the main home in the film and shr recalled see the street “a complete mess” when filming. This footage was not included in the original 2011 cut.