Philosophical Visuals: 12 Shots That Describe Terrence Malick’s Cinema.

November 30, 2014  |  2014, Directors, Feature

Thin Red Line

Terrence Malick is America’s greatest philosophical director. After the tumultuous beginning of “Badlands,” in 1973, when he drove half the film crew mad with his insistence on capturing moments according to the external elements, he made the even more laboriously-produced “Days of Heaven” 5 years later. Then he disappeared, moving to Paris and falling in love (large chunks of his life in this period remain private and undocumented). He reemerged in 1998 with “The Thin Red Line,” a WWII film boasting a gigantic all-star cast.

Terrence Malick

“The Thin Red Line” added to his notorious reputation of being difficult to work with due to his in-the-moment decision making. Nevertheless, the film was a critical and financial success, nabbing some Oscar nominations on the way. In 2005,”The New World” was the new Terrence Malick film, and a drastic shift towards the more abstract was felt. Not as well received, the film started to gain in stature only years later. Then, in 2011, Malick’s “The Tree of Life” took a leap forward in the director’s evolutionary cycle, towards the more personal, spiritual, and cinematic. It won the Palme D’Or, founds its way close to Sight & Sound‘s 2012 Greatest Films Poll, and angered many.

It took only a year for a new Malick film to hit festivals. “To The Wonder” encroached even further into realms of a transcendental nature. Nary a narrative or apparent character development to be seen, “To The Wonder” made many turn away from Malick, while those true to the man’s philosophical visual style held on, defended, and praised.

Today is Terrence Malick’s 71st birthday. As he is one of my personal favorites, and in my opinion, the most important American filmmaker working today, I’ve decided to honor his birthday by selecting a few of my favorite images from his 6 finished feature length films, and associate them with a quote from some of Malick’s known points of reference. These include philosophers Martin Heidegger, Søren Kierkegaard, and Ludwig Wittgenstein (whom he studied before turning to journalism and film, Heidegger especially), Stanley Cavell (renowned film theorist, and Malick’s old professor) and the Book of Job (quoted in the beginning of “Tree of Life,” and surely a text Malick has studied as a devout Episcopalian Christian).

Click on. I hope you enjoy.

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