There was no way I’d describe myself as a “Malick Head” way back in 2010, prior to seeing his rhapsodic Palme d’Or winner, The Tree of Life. But I definitely would now. The seismic activity generated by that film at the time of its (weirdly precarious) release nevertheless led me to travel to France by road to see it before it came out in UK cinemas, as no distributors here wanted to touch it for some reason.
Though you can trace a stylistic evolution from his feted debut feature, Badlands, from 1973, to the work he’s making now, The Tree of Life felt like an epochal moment in Malick’s career, and within global cinema culture. And that feeling was evident even within people who didn’t chime with the film. The 2010s was Malick’s decade, a period of feverish creativity, formal experimentation and swimming against the harsh tides of identikit convention. Character, story, editing, framing, sound design, costume, dialogue, special effects – everything is up for grabs.
In this issue of LWLies, we take a voyage through time, delving into the Terrence Malick story from his earliest days as a jobbing screenwriter with a handy knack for salty Southern idioms, to the present day and the release of his heady ode to resistance and spirituality, A Hidden Life.
Since working for this magazine I’ve been waiting for the stars to align and to be able to splash a Malick movie on the cover, and frankly I’d have been happy with any of those he gifted us since The Tree of Life. Finally, everything slotted into place and so here is an issue celebrating the lonesome genius of modern cinema’s foremost poet-philosopher.
On the cover
A Hidden Life is the story of an Austrian conscientious objector in the era of Hitler’s rise to power, but this theme of personal and political sacrifice is set against a simple and pure love story. London-based illustrator Niall Grant has created a double cover in a folk-gothic style that features Franz and Fani Jägerstätter (played by August Diehl and Valerie Pachner respectively) which connect at the centre to emphasise a human bond that can never be broken.