Terrence Malick is one of most intriguing authors of contemporary American cinema. Hated by many (on a long list of people who have expressed their disappointment in Malick one may find names of Adrien Brody, Haskell Wexler or producers Bert and Harold Schneider), admired and respected by others (Sissy Spacek, Sean Penn or Robert De Niro, who as a president of jury of 64th Cannes Film Festival awarded last Malick’s film, The Tree of Life, 2011, with Golden Palm). He debuted in 1973 with Badlands, deep and stunning study of amorality which recalls echoes of Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and anticipates in a way Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers (1995).
In his second feature film, Days of Heaven (1978), a period movie settled in USA prior to World War I, star Richard Gere (the role in Malick’s film was a breakthrough for the actor’s carrier), Brooke Adams and a playwright Sam Shepard introduced to the big screen. Acknowledged as a masterpiece, film brought an award for best director in Cannes for Terrence Malick. Up until today he has directed three more pictures – appreciated by the critics war film, The Thin Red Line (1998), story of princess Pocahontas and captain John Smith, The New World (2005) and already mentioned The Tree of Life. Short retrospective of Terrence Malick in “Ambasada Kinoteka” includes his two first films and will be completed with screenings of The Tree of Life in the regular program.
Terrence MALLICK in Cinema UDARNIK
Ambasada Kinoteka (Embassy of the Slovenian Movie archive)
3. March, 20.00: Surova balada (Badlands) // 1973
10. March, 20.00: Božanski dnevi (Days of Heaven) // 1978
Filmske premiere (ArtCinema Premieres)
6., 7. & 11. March, 20.00: Drevo življenja (Tree of Life) // 2011
All films are in ENGLISH with Slovenian Subtitles
Ticket: 4 euros/3 for students, youth and elderly
Malick who realizes films in an average of one per decade, functions in Hollywood as a true author who writes, directs and closely cooperates with cinematographers. A visual perfectionist, philosopher and sensitive artist, known for spontaneous filmmaking and causing the production delays. Several subjects – “essential questions” – keep coming back throughout his whole filmography. “Way of nature” is confronted with the “way of grace”, wildness and passion with sacrifice and mercy, presence of God (whoever he or she might be) is being constantly questioned, checked and doubted. Starting with Badlands and finishing with The New World Terrence Malick’s works belong to different genres (from road movie, through war film, to period melodrama). However, it wouldn’t be appropriate to consider his work as a genre discourse (especially in the context of The Tree of Life, artistic piece, turning into formalistic one), although he is conscious of filmmaking traditions, respects them, even if sometimes he refers to them ironically. Malick in the simple stories of love, betrayal or brotherhood, breaks common film conventions by applying several characteristic means of expression (polyphonic voice over, wide shots, travellings, photography from a worm’s-eye view or close-ups which reveal calm and powerful world of nature). Each manifestation of experience of life interests him equally, he sees human beings just as a part of wider structure, dangerous yet beautiful. Therefore, rhythm of the narration not necessarily depends on characters’ actions and motivations, but rather reflects being-in-the-world and changes which occur in the united system of nature.
Malick’s debut, Badlands, is loosely inspired by the history of Charles Starkwather and Caril Ann Fugate, teenager murderers and fugitives who committed their crimes in 1958. “Adventure” of 15 years old Holly (debuting Sissy Spacek) and her 25 years old boyfriend, Kit (Martin Sheen) starts in futureless little town in South Dakota. They fall in love, despite of the lack of her father’s acceptance for their feelings. When it’s impossible to keep the relation any longer, Kit decides for both of them to run away and kill everyone who stands on their way. Killings don’t need any explanation; Kit exposes himself as a cowardly avenger who shoots people in their backs. Holly, narrator of the story, accepts his perspective, doesn’t ask questions, judge him, nor try to stop him. They are both neurotic personalities, stifled by the social norms and expectations, who desperately need to be loved and, what seems more important for them, remembered. Escape to the world of fantasy ends on the plains of Montana in the hopeless and lifeless landscape.
Main characters of Days of Heaven, lovers Bill (Richard Gere) and Abby (Brooke Adams), just like Holly and Kit, are searching for the place which would bring them security and stabilization. However, their pursuit for happiness is founded on crime and lie, its fulfillment turns out be an illusion. In the mirror of outstanding photography of Nestor Alemendros and Haskell Wexler (majority of the shots were made during “golden hours”, just after dawn and before dusk) passions that burst in the characters seem the same as destructive instincts that drive the locust. Malick avoids dialogues leaving majority of speaking parts to Linda’s voice over monologues (pre-mature Bill’s teenage sister who follows her doomed carers out of love is suggestively played by Linda Manz), but the director mostly tells the story through the images where mediocrity hides in beauty and the vast fields of crop appear to be a death trap.