1st Edition

Theology and the Films of Terrence Malick

Edited By Christopher B. Barnett, Clark J. Elliston Copyright 2017
    290 Pages
    by Routledge

    318 Pages
    by Routledge

    Terrence Malick is one of the most important and controversial filmmakers of the last few decades. Yet his renown does not stem from box office receipts, but rather from his inimitable cinematic vision that mixes luminous shots of nature, dreamlike voiceovers, and plots centered on enduring existential questions. Although scholars have thoroughly examined Malick’s background in philosophy, they have been slower to respond to his theological concerns.

    This volume is the first to focus on the ways in which Malick integrates theological inquiries and motifs into his films. The book begins with an exploration of Malick’s career as a filmmaker and shows how his Heideggerian interests relate to theology. Further essays from established and up-and-coming scholars analyze seven of Malick’s most prominent films – Badlands (1973), Days of Heaven (1978), The Thin Red Line (1998), The New World (2005), The Tree of Life (2011), To the Wonder (2012), and Knight of Cups (2015) – to show how his cinematic techniques point toward and overlap with principles of Christian theology. A thorough study of an iconic filmmaker, this book is an essential resource for students and scholars in the emerging field of religion and film.


    Part One: An Introduction to Terrence Malick—Scholar, Filmmaker

    1 An Improbable Career: The Films of Terrence Malick

    James Kendrick

    2 In the Theater of Light: Towards a Heideggerian Poetics of Film

    George Pattison

    Part Two: Terrence Malick as Theological Auteur

    3 The Divine Reticence of Terrence Malick

    Peter J. Leithart

    4 Who Has Eyes to See, Let Him See: Terrence Malick as Natural Theologian

    David H. Calhoun

    5 Gelassenheit: Spirit and Spirituality in the Films of Terrence Malick

    Christopher B. Barnett

    Part Three: The Films of Terrence Malick: Theological Readings

    6 The Obscurity of the Self—or Why Bruce Springsteen Gets Badlands Wrong

    Christopher B. Barnett

    7 The Unique Difficulty of Days of Heaven

    Jonathan Brant

    8 While All Creation Groans: The Thin Red Line and Gestures toward Hope in the Midst of War

    Paul Martens

    9 Light in the Darkness: The Problem of Evil in The Thin Red Line

    Mark S.M. Scott

    10 Reaching Towards the Light: Loving the (New) World

    Clark J. Elliston

    11 The Tree of Life and the Lamb of God

    Peter M. Candler, Jr.

    12 Eternal Flesh as Divine Wisdom in The Tree of Life

    Joshua Nunziato

    13 The Promise of Love Perfected: Eros and Kenosis in To the Wonder

    Paul Camacho

    14 "Remember Who You Are": Imaging Life’s Purpose in Knight of Cups

    M. Gail Hamner


    Christopher B. Barnett is Associate Professor in the Department of Theology & Religious Studies at Villanova University. He received his Doctor of Philosophy in Theology from the University of Oxford. In addition to several articles and book chapters, he has published two books: Kierkegaard, Pietism and Holiness (2011) and From Despair to Faith: The Spirituality of Søren Kierkegaard (2014). His next major project is Kierkegaard: Discourses and Writings on Spirituality—a volume that will appear in The Classics of Western Spirituality series, issued by Paulist Press.

    Clark J. Elliston is Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas. He received his Doctor of Philosophy in Theology from the University of Oxford. His monograph, Bonhoeffer and the Ethical Self (2016), places Dietrich Bonhoeffer in conversation with Emmanuel Levinas and Simone Weil.