Earlier this month, after Terrence Malick’s “Song to Song” debuted to very low numbers during its opening weekend, IndieWire asked film critics if audiences had finally lost their patience with the auteur director. It’s an understandable question given how polarizing Malick’s style has become in the years after “The Tree of Life.” His fragmented, wandering vision in “Song to Song” even forced some of his biggest advocates to question the direction of his career.
While Malick will never just abandon all of his trademark flourishes, it appears he’s finally going back to more structured storytelling with his next film. Rumor had it that “Radegund,” a WWII drama about conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter, would be Malick’s most narrative-minded film in years, and the director outright confirmed it during a chat at Washington D.C.’s Air and Space Museum earlier this week (via The Film Stage).
“Lately – I keep insisting, only very lately – have I been working without a script and I’ve lately repented the idea,” the director said. “The last picture we shot, and we’re now cutting, went back to a script that was very well ordered.”
German actor August Diehl stars as Jägerstätter, an Austrian who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II and was later executed by them. The international cast also includes Valerie Pachner, Michael Nyqvist, Bruno Ganz and Matthias Schoenaerts.
Malick further elaborated on his storytelling when he weighed the pros and cons of his unorthodox approach as seen in films like “Knight of Cups” and “To The Wonder.” Malick may like working without a script due to the freedom it gives his actors, but he’s well aware of the challenges it poses on a broader scale.
“There’s a lot of strain when working without a script because you can lose track of where you are,” he said. “It’s very hard to coordinate with others who are working on the film. Production designers and location managers arrive in the morning and don’t know what we’re going to shoot or where we’re going to shoot. The reason we did it was to try and get moments that are spontaneous and free.”
He continued, “As a movie director, you always feel with a script that you’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. And with no script, there’s no round hole, there’s just air. But I’m backing away from that style now.”
“Radegund,” which is now in post-production, will head to the Cannes market in May to try and secure international distribution. Malick purists may be upset by his return to a more structured narrative, but it’s a decision that could easily win back over fans who have grown restless with him.