Everywhere and yet nowhere.
Terence Malick haunts the world of cinema like The Lord, Our Father, used to haunt us sinners’ lives. He, The Lord I mean, is dead and gone now of course. But Terry’s still with us at least. Like the most alluring and troubling of deities, Malick stalks our days and troubles our nights.
The first Malick film I saw was The Thin Red Line. We barreled into that West End cinema with the normal Saturday night, alcohol-fuelled, boyish bravado; expecting to see the usual war film – the carnage, the stoicism, the ultimate triumph. We left chastened men.
I’d never experienced anything like it. We didn’t utter a word as we left – none of the usual piss-takes, snarky comments, arrogant improvements – not even one of those ever so few raves. We felt a little embarrassed; we’d experienced something too intimate and profound to be discussed. We smiled at each other and left it at that.
Inevitably, I hunted out everything else he had made. That, to my delight, amounted to only two previously released films: ‘Badlands’ and ‘Days of Heaven’. A masterpiece is one thing; three in a row is taking the piss.
We had to wait until 2005 for the next: ‘The New World’ and then, this year, ‘The Tree Of Life’.
He’s not for everyone, Terry. Perhaps, like The Lord used to, he demands too much of us. But oh, for the initiated, his Bounty is neverending.
He translated Heidegger in his youth – ‘The Essence Of Reasons’. Heidegger believed that we found ourselves fallen into a world that already existed. I can’t speak for Malick, but watching his films, it makes you realise afresh into what a world we’ve fallen. ‘Eden’ we called it when The Lord was still around, and we were still unsullied. Now it’s just a garden, but at least someone’s still here to show you all its glories.