He’s not the most prolific of directors – just seven movies in 43 years – but the films he has made have divided audiences and critics alike, with their philosophical, existential themes and lengthy run times. His work is widely regarded as something of ‘an acquired taste,’ presenting, as it does, relatable, human issues – such deprivation, crime, war, family, and faith – against vast backdrops of human experience. While Malick’s style and interest does not lend itself to studio franchise movies, his work is certainly divisive.
Malick always writes his own screenplays, even when adapting literature – such as The Thin Red Line, which based upon the novel by James Jones. This, coupled with his penchant for using regular collaborators onscreen (such as Christian Bale and Sean Penn) means that each of his films benefits from having every frame infused with a meaning determined by the filmmaker himself.
Indeed, when we watch Badlands, or The New World, or To The Wonder, we are viewing the closest possible version of the story to that which has played inside the director’s mind. A Terrence Malick film is at once a sprawling, yet intimate experience – and that is not to everybody’s taste.