Artistic Genius of the Invisible Man

The Evening Standard (London, England), November 26, 2015 | Go to article overview

Artistic Genius of the Invisible Man


Byline: DAVID SEXTON

TERRENCE MALICK: REHEARSING THE UNEXPECTED Edited by Carlo Hintermann and Daniele Villa (Faber, PS25).

TERRENCE Malick, like Samuel Beckett, like Thomas Harris, makes no appearances, gives no interviews, never talks about his art.

It's a little frustrating, the more so in that most of the criticism written about his films has been so academic and uninspiring. Yet it does mean that you encounter them for yourself, as they are, on their own terms: the most original, creative, spiritual films of our time, all the way from Badlands of 1973 and Days of Heaven of 1978, through the 20-year hiatus before The Thin Red Line of 1998, followed by The New World of 2005 and The Tree of Life of 2011. In January, Knight of Cups, his most visionary and wayward film yet seen, is scheduled for release. They are all untranslatable into any terms other than their own.

This new book, put together by admiring young Italian filmmakers, has found the right approach, though. Explicitly not a biography, it is instead a medley of interviews and memoirs about working with Malick, with actors, cinematographers, designers and producers, some of them more or less quoting him, mostly just testifying to what it is like to collaborate with a man they pretty much universally rate as a genius.

Some Sam Shepard, say, who played the farmer in Days of Heaven, the cinematographer Nestor Almendros who captured its "magic hour" light are more eloquent than others, while the designer of all his films, Jack Fisk, though warning that his thoughts are his own and may not reflect Terry's ideas, is particularly revealing. At one point, he says, "for me, houses are kind of unnatural; we were probably built originally to live in caves and out in the landscape "; at another, "I think he sees us all as animals, as part of the earth . …

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