Terrence Malick is a cinematic genius and here are some of his most famous films from the last few decade. His latest film is the World War 2 film, “A Hidden Life” which tells the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector, refuses to fight for the Nazis in World War II.
The film has been hailed as one of his best in recent years. With Malik’s latest release, this is a great time to reflect on his past films which stretch back over a few decades and come from the vivid imagination of this reclusive genius
‘THE TREE OF LIFE’
Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler, Jessica Chastain, and Tye Sheridan
“The Tree of Life” with heavyweights Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. From what I know the film tells of a boy’s relationship with his parents from birth all the way to death. His mother nurtures him to be forgiving and full of grace while he suffers from a fraught and sometimes strained relationship with his father who teaches him the ways of the world. Quintessentially, everyone in life is influenced and affected by people around them, for better or for worse, everyone has choices and the film seeks to explore the interconnections of people, their strengths and of course, their flaws……
A simple enough story but Malick is a modern day artist whom normally weaves intricate storylines blended into stunning visuals. Malick normally takes his viewers into another world with his vivid imagination and the viewer for one will forever be grateful to have experienced such beautiful imagery…….
The Tree of Life has been in production for nearly ten years and it is a testament to the respect that Malick can garner that both Penn and Pitt signed on for this film. In a future post, I will comment on his past films such as the Thin Red Line, The New World and Days of Heaven…..
‘THE THIN RED LINE ‘
Starring Jim Cavizel, Ben Chaplin, Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, George Clooney, John Cusack, Jared Leto, John Savage and John Travolta.
“There’s only a thin red line between the sane and the mad.’
Tag Line “Everyman fights his own war…..”
The Thin Red Line is as far away from your average war film that you can imagine. Terrance Mallick took the famous semi-biographical book by James Jones and used it as a sweeping canvas for his vision of men at conflict with not just their percieved enemy but their own souls. TTRL is a stunningly poignant and moving poetic condemnation of the recklessness and insanity of war.
The film is set during the battle of Guadacanal during WW2 and the principal characters are Witt (Jim Caviezel) and Welsh (Sean Penn). The former views the world as a spirtual place and the island is a type of eden while the latter sees the world with cynical and worldly eyes. Even with all the death and destruction around him, Witt still desperately tries to hold onto his beliefs as his comrades become shells of their former selves due to some of the terrible things they have witnessed. For others like Welsh, war and killing is part of human nature, has been and always will be; a cycle of violence that can never truly end. The native Pacific islanders are tragically simply caught up in the fighting and their simple way of life is altered forever…….
The film presents the natural beauty of the island in stark contrast to all the chaos that is engulfing the tropical paradise with the men slowly realising their own mortality in what could essentially be their final resting place. TTRL focuses on the nature of mankind in an unspoiled natural ‘heaven’ on earth; where contemporary society itself comes to a percieved island paradise so must the worse manifestations of mankind.
The TTRl was Mallick’s first film after about twenty years and a whos who of Hollywood stars were literally falling over themselves to be involved. The stellar cast reflects the respect and esteem that is held for Mallick.There is actually a six hour cut which where people like Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Viggo Mortensen and Billy Bob Thorton are supposedly supposed to be in.
The film was unfortunately released at around the same time as “Saving Private Ryan” and was somewhat overshadowed by the latter. TTRL went onto to recieve several oscar nominations and took home top prize at the Berlin film festival.
‘DAYS OF HEAVEN’
Starring Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard and Linda Manz
Days of Heaven, a poignant love story, is one of the most beautiful films ever made. The scenery is simply stunning and cinematography will stay with you forever. I wish I saw this in the cinema…but I wasn’t born yet. This is one of Richard Gere’s first performances and how ironic it remains one of this best.
The simple story tells of a love triangle between Bill (Gere), Abby (Brooke Adams) and a richer farmer (Sam Shephard). Bill and Abby are lovers, at the turn of the twentieth century, who flee from Chicago and the midwest to build a better life. They find work on a farm where they pretend to be brother and sister; the rich farm owner soon meets abby and falls in love with her; soon they find out that the farm owner is dying and wishes to marry Abby before it is too late. Abby and Bill hope to eventually claim the dead farmers fortune; unfortunately circumstances change and a tragic love triangle ensues. A simple story but the canvas on which it plays out is simply beautiful and a sense of melancholy lingers throughout the entire film.
‘THE NEW WORLD‘
Starring Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer and Christian Bale
A reinterpretation of the love story between Pocahantas and Captain John Smith and is a stunning visual feast for the eyes.