F.I.L.M. of the Week (June 17, 2011)

17 06 2011

In preparation for “The Tree of Life,” I made my way through the entire Terrence Malick filmography (which, by the way, isn’t hard since he has made all of four films in 37 years) for the first time.  I had heard so much praise for the director’s movies, yet the only one I thought was unequivocally worthy of it was “The Thin Red Line,” my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”  Malick’s distinct style and imagery seem uniquely fitted for a movie like this, where men with killing machines are juxtaposed with the beauty of nature and the people who live in harmony with it.

Set in 1942 during the American offensive on Guadalcanal, Malick’s nearly three-hour film has the ambition and grandeur of an epic poem, and it certainly feels like one.  The beauty and the savagery Malick captures with the lens tells another story all on its own, and together with a script that plumbs for perspectives on the most primal questions of human existence, the movie’s visceral intensity can make for sensory overload.  In my opinion, it’s the only one of his films where I felt truly moved by the imagery and rambling philosophical narrations (both trademarks of his work).

Of course, I’m not going to pretend like I have a deep understanding of the movie, only that at surface level with some shallow analysis, it’s a satisfying watch.  It certainly doesn’t feel as esoteric or obscure as his other films.  I will say that I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the only one of his movies I really liked was his only adapted script.

The characters, although I’m sure still twisted for Malick’s own purposes, come from the novel of the same name by James Jones.  The men in the movie – with the exception of the now extremely famous – all look alike, so it gets a little confusing at times to separate the individual storylines of C Company.  However, as long as you are willing to accept “The Thin Red Line” as a movie of ideas and images instead of a movie of events, then you will be swept off your feet by Malick’s fim that doesn’t fall anywhere on the typical pro-war/anti-war spectrum.  It celebrates life in the most threatening settings known to mankind.

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