Malick has politely declined every single one of the countless interview requests he’s received since 1975 (by which point he had granted only a few), but mum has rarely, if ever, been the word on him. Critics, academics, and fans alike have made a habit of endlessly speculating about Malick’s habits and whereabouts for the entirety of his now four-decade career; he’s amassed something of a cult following for exhibiting what many would consider perfectly normal behavior and attempting to work in private.
But ultimately this gives better insight into his films, which should more often be the center of discussion. Much negative critical reception to Malick fails to grasp how sincere his films are: they focus on the core elements of being and what it is like to be (things he picked up, no doubt, from Heidegger)—The Tree of Life was one of the best recent portraits of what it was like to be a child (the other being Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are). That’s what the profile uncovers: his “hiatus” was just him trying to get movies made the way he wants to make them, without caveats and compromises.
No films look quite like (or as good as) Malick’s; and he is certainly incredibly daring with formal narrative, and even when he’s not—Badlands—he can tell a compelling story. I’ll look forward to any new project of his that is lucky enough to get made.