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Terrence Malick

May 29, 2011

I posted this on my Things We Need (to make it thru the day) blog and after I did I realized it belonged here.

Malick is one of the great directors of our time (or any time) yet how often do you hear those words spoken? With the release of The Tree of Life he’s directed five—let me repeat that—FIVE—feature films. I need to go back and watch Days of Heaven and Badlands; it’s been too many years since I saw them for me to remember much about them…yet…yet there is something there…. A feeling? A mood? The vaguest memories?

With The Thin Red Line and The New World there are very distinct feelings and memories. The Thin Red Line follows a group of young men during the battle for Guadalcanal. You sit there for three harrowing hours and watch as they fight their way across this island—watch many of them die—then finally watch them leaving the island on board a ship that will take them to the next island. It was that moment—THAT MOMENT—when I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. For it was that moment when I realized that in a day, or maybe a week, they would be landing at that next island to do it all over again. Suddenly I realized the phrase: “War is hell” is not quite right…it should be, “War AS hell.”

Neither Sisyphus nor Prometheus had anything on these young men.

I wept.

The incident in The New World that hit me in much the same way was when the ship carrying the explorers from Europe comes into sight for the first time. What a moment. It was heightened by music raised to thunderous levels in the theater. It must’ve been an experience that would not be far removed from our watching beings from a distant galaxy land on earth. No, it was far more dramatic. We’ve already thought of the possibility of that happening; the seed has been planted in our modern consciousness. For the people living in the Americas back then there was nothing that could have prepared them for that moment and Malick brought it—breathtakingly—to life for me.

I can’t wait to see The Tree of Life though I fear I’ve such high expectations that I can’t be anything but disappointed.

I just listened to this review on NPR from May 27th. By the end of it I had tears in my eyes.

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