This volume offers a series of brilliant essays exploring the major films of Terrence Malick. The cases presented, both for and against the films, and the techniques they use, are compelling, superly written, informative and convincing. Unbiased and whilst being both sympathetic and critical, they reveal the mechanics and ideology behind each of the films in stark detail. The tone is quite academic but the points are made in pithy observations, illustrated, both pictorially and linguistically with examples. Hugely enjoyable, they retrace the steps of the filmmaker in his quest to bring a freshness, a radience, which is at the heart of his films, and in his corresponding world view. Reading these works, we begin to realise the very depths Malick plunges his viewers. These essays help us realise that Malick is both asking us to look at the world again with new eyes as well as making some pretty profound existential comments. (It sheds light on the fact that Malick translated one of Heidegger's works at some point. These ideas were incorporated into the Thin Red Line, according to one of the most interesting essays, which basically posits that Malick has so thoroughly absorbed his peer's work so as to create a cinematic equivalent of work of such magnitude as Being and Time.)
One of the essays brilliantly delineates how Malick used and changed Jones' novel of the Thin Red Line to his own purposes. Themes which I would never have even thought of - eg that of the Fall, sadomasochism in war - are discussed in minute detail providing priceless insight into the ideas that the director wished to portray. For example, the final shot in the aforementioned film, of the coconut seeding on the beach as the waves lap at it, for me was an ambiguous and ambivalent image of hope, regeneration and rebirth; life after death. In the essay, we are treated to another aspect many people would not have entertained: it is put forward that the image relates to two ideas: (a) that of a Japanese brushstroke (in the film it is the Americans who are depicted as being involved in war crimes); (b) the idea that Witt's sacrifice has afforded his own immortality! With such insight, who could resist?? Fascinating.
As if we needed another reason to go back to the films, this edition will illuminate and persuade the viewers of some aspects of the production and core ideas which lay at the foundation of Malick's art, unveiling a mastercraftsman who has very fixed ideas, strong control of his product and an artistic licence rare in cinema. He is presented as an aesthete, a mystic, an auteur who employs unconventional but original devices in order to pregnate his films with meaning, cinematically and philosophically. A must for anyone who has been enchanted by the bliss evoked in one of these masterpieces. This book has it all: history, anthropology, literature, photography and much more. A truly professional account of a handful of movies that can change your life.
You will go back to the films with renewed interest and almost see a different film. Or, at least, comprehend the many layers Malick has managed to involve in his productions. Let's hope for a new edition discussing the Palm d'Or-winning the Tree of Life!
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All the films are covered in this new edition. The essays are always interesting and make you want to watch the films again to see them with a fresh perspective. Of course some essays are better than others but taken as a whole it is a very good book and another fine addition to the directors cuts series. Malick is a highly intelligent director and the majority of essays are written by professors, who manage to communicate their thoughts in a readily accessible way.
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