Art & Design
Posted by G. Raymond Leavold
07. Sep, 2011
Enigmatic filmmaker Terrence Malick’s career hasn’t been prolific.
It has been 38 years since his amazing feature debut, Badlands, and he has only made a handful of films since, each of which The Astor Theatre will be playing over the coming weeks.
Few filmmakers have had such a concentration of terrific work while being able to maintain such a low strike-out rate. Though not suited to everyone’s tastes, Malick’s films are explorations of character, beauty, humanity, frailty, foibles and they challenge us with confronting questions that most films aren’t brave enough to ask of their audience. Enjoy!
Badlands (1973) and Days of Heaven (1978) double feature, Monday 12 September
Starring Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek and the irreplaceable Warren Oates, Malick’s first feature – loosely based on the true story of young love and homocide—is set in the 50s and has a childish, dreamlike quality about it (augmented by Spacek’s beautiful, character-driven voice-over) that Malick has employed in each of his films since. Sheen is mesmerising as young rebel Kit, and Spacek exudes warmth and charm as the small-town girl who falls for a very bad boy. Though their doomed love affair is childish and hopelessly naïve, it seems frighteningly real.
The one film that doesn’t exactly measure up to the rest of them, Days of Heaven, is a triumph of aesthetic beauty. The film follows young lovers Bill and Abbey (Richard Gere and Brooke Adams) in 1916 as they move across idyllic rural landscapes looking for work and escape. Almost the entire film was shot during ‘magic hour’, the very short periods of the day at sun rise and sunset when a golden hue settles over the land, giving the visuals an appropriately ‘magical’ feel. This will be amazing to see on the big screen.
The Thin Red Line (1998) Monday 19 September
It was 20 years after Days of Heaven that Malick decided to make another feature. It was well worth the wait. The Thin Red Line is a fascinating portrait of war, focusing on one particular company’s battle during WWII and told from the perspectives of an array of soldiers and officers. Boasting incredible performances from the huge ensemble cast, some of which you’d frankly think weren’t capable of convincing dramatic acting (John Cusack and Woody Harrelson to name a few), The Thin Red Line is clever enough not to ram a message down its audience’s throat, having said that, it will not leave you unaffected.
The New World Monday 26 September
Malick tackles the John Smith/Pocahontas story as a tale of conquest and Westernisation. As the British land and set up a colony in America, their first contact with the natives is on friendly terms until their cultures and ideals inevitably clash. A story that has been endlessly told, the tone and look of the film make it a story worth retelling: its roving, smooth hand-held camerawork lends itself to the dream-state that Malick so effortlessly creates. Slow-paced and thoughtful, The New World is an admittedly long but utterly engaging film. Take this over Avatar any day.
The Tree of Life Saturday 1 October
Malick’s latest film plays out almost as the domestic 2001: A Space Odyssey of this generation.
He uses the story of a 1960s suburban family’s loss to tell the story of life everywhere, and the connection that all life has: to the past, to itself, and to (for lack of a better term) God, which Malick believes to be the universe, that vast mindless expanse that we pray to within ourselves.
Though that is a little extemporised, this is not exactly a film that lends itself entirely to thought, nor answers, but feelings. It’s at times hard to glean what Malick wants to say, but the journey is a visceral, beautiful human experience, and by the end very touching as, in one of the moments of clarity found in the film, Malick believes not in a heaven, but in a shared consciousness, in our love and memories and in life in its singular form: the universe. We are all one being, but we are never alone.
The Terrence Malick Retrospective is showing over the next four Mondays at
The Astor Theatre, 1 Chapel St, St. Kilda.
For session times and tickets visit: www.astor-theatre.com
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