"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," he tells French newspaper "Le Figaro" (via "The New Yorker"). "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!" he added. "What's more, Terry himself never managed to explain it to me clearly."
Penn adds, "It's a film I recommend on the condition that one go only without preconceptions. It's up to each to find a personal emotional or spiritual connection. Those that reach this generally leave very moved."
Co-star Brad Pitt (who played Penn's father) said at the Cannes premiere that working with Malick had a lasting effect on his career, however.
"It's changed everything I've done since," he said, describing Malick's shooting style: "He's like a guy standing there with a butterfly net, waiting for that moment to go by."
The film had five editors and was in post-production for three years before finally being released in the United States by Fox Searchlight in May.
– The Hollywood Reporter