“Terrence Malick is extremely shy and you must not attempt to make direct contact with him. You must pretend you are eavesdropping on a private conversation.”
My friend Matt Zoller Seitz posted a link this morning on Facebook to this rare transcript of a public Q&A with Terrence Malick from 2007 at the Rome Film Festival, at which he showed clips from a few Italian films and discussed what he liked about them. Although the audience had been warned that Malick would not talk about his own work, he did in fact show clips from Badlands and The New World and briefly discuss them — perhaps one of the only times he’s ever done so.
It’s a fascinating glimpse at the notoriously private filmmaker, and if you’re an admirer of Malick, you’ll want to go read it.
Some of the comments in the Facebook thread got me pondering, though, why it is that we (and by “we” I mean, both “we” the film viewing public and “we” in the press) tend to feel entitled to have access to the minds of filmmakers or actors? The more we admire them and the less access they allow us to their private minds and private lives, it seems, the more we want to “own” them.
Personally, I don’t think any filmmaker or artist has any kind of moral obligation to interact with fans of his or her work. To a certain extent, it’s the work the artist creates that the audience is to interact with and respond to, not the artist himself — unless he or she chooses to allow public access to private thoughts. But in reading through various comments out and about on the internet about Malick, it seems that there’s a certain degree of, well, pissiness from some quarters regarding Malick’s notorious shyness and privacy. He doesn’t do interviews. He doesn’t do press conferences. He didn’t show up to accept the Palm d’Or at Cannes (although he did reportedly briefly make an appearance at the film’s premiere there). The nerve of the man! some say. Who does he think he is, to have his film screen at Cannes, and refuse — refuse! — to do press conferences and interviews? To NOT show up to accept the fest’s highest honor?
Who does he think he is? I’ve never met the man, but I assume he thinks — correctly — that he is a private citizen with a right to his privacy, and a good enough filmmaker to be able to dictate the terms of his contracts such that he doesn’t have to do things that he’s clearly uncomfortable doing. Charlie Kaufman doesn’t talk about how he writes scripts, Terrence Malick doesn’t talk to anyone publicly about his work, period. So what?
What do you think? Do filmmakers have a right to their privacy? Or are some film buffs and press right to feel that a filmmaker like Malick has some kind of obligation to give interviews about his work?