"I read today in Film Comment that Malick supposedly converted to Christianity in between THE NEW WORLD and TREE OF LIFE earning him some negative press from certain syndicate writers who were lucky enough to see the film at Cannes."
In Film Comment, Scott Foundas wrote:
"I found many of the film’s detractors clinging to the notion that Malick had, in the interval between The New World and this film, become a born-again Christian. That may well be the case, but, to these eyes, The Tree of Life remains an open, porous, searching work, unmistakably rooted in the tradition of religious art, and yet unbound by any one particular dogma. To which I would add that there seemed to be far less objection when, only last year, the Palme d’Or went to another meditative film about nature, death, and possible afterlives—Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives—perhaps because there is no right-wing Buddhist conspiracy suspected of plotting to undermine Western democracy as we know it."
I'm pretty sure that Brandon either misunderstood Foundas or wasn't as clear as he could have been in alluding to his article.
I've heard multiple accounts of Malick's religious upbringing, from Eastern Rite Catholic to Episcopalian. I don't think that there's anything to suggest a recent conversion (though a recent "re-commitment" surely could be possible). I also don't know that we'll get a clarification on this considering Malick's notorious reclusiveness.
For what it's worth, I think that The New World is a much clearer "Christian" film than Tree of Life. I'll try to defend that statement after the next time I watch it. Strong hints of Malick working in a distinctively "Christian" artistic tradition/style are evident early on, but then really blossom in Thin Red Line and everything that follows. I need to re-watch Thin Red Line.
At the very least, I think that we can all agree that Malick is operating in the Bergmanian tradition.
Ingmar Bergman wrote:
"There is an old story of how the cathedral of Chartres was struck by lighting and burned to the ground. Then thousands of people came from all points of the compass, like a giant procession of ants, and together they began to rebuilt the cathedral on its old site. They worked until the building was completed - master builders, artists, labores, clowns, noblemen, priests, burghers. But they all remained anonymous, and no one knows to this day who built the cathedral of Chartres."
"Thus if I am asked what I would like the general purpose of my films to be, I would reply that I want to be one of the artists in the cathedral on the great plain. I want to make a dragon's head, an angel, a devil - or perhaps a saint - out of stone. It doesn not matter which; it is the sense of satisfaction that counts. regardless of whether I believe or not; whether I am a Christian or not, I would play my part in the collective building of a cathedral."