Terrence Malick’s movies frequently contrast the seeming tranquility and innate beauty of nature with the feral, violent and often amoral emotions of his characters. Director Malick has managed to do this with uncommon grace, an intuitive visual sense and a spiritual transcendence, in the end elevating his sagas to cosmically tragic heights – all without becoming the least bit pretentious.
Malick’s career path has been an unusual one; you’d be hard-pressed to find another Oscar-nominated director who’s spent time teaching philosophy at MIT. Following a pair of films (BADLANDS, DAYS OF HEAVEN) that helped make him one of the most acclaimed New Hollywood visionaries, the director dropped off the industry radar for nearly 20 years before returning in 1998 with the Golden Bear-winning WWII drama THE THIN RED LINE. Since then, Malick films have appeared more regularly, and his music-filled romantic drama SONG TO SONG is due in theaters this month.
Even without long periods between premieres, Malick’s work could never be described as “dashed off.” Beyond their editorial pace and gorgeous shot composition, these films clearly have a lot of life experience behind them; 2011’s THE TREE OF LIFE, for instance, borrows ideas from a script written in the late 1970s. More important than the long gestation of the productions themselves, Malick’s films inspire careful reflection, and several (such as THE NEW WORLD) that proved critically divisive at first have been deemed masterpieces years later.
Series programmed by Gwen Deglise and Grant Moninger. Program notes by John Hagelston.