In defence of Terrence Malick

James Hill /
Sep 22, 2017 / Film & TV

It has been a year since Terrence Malick’s latest discernment of the cosmos reached us. Voyage of Time is, for Malik fans, another spectacular visual outing from the elusive Texan director.

For people not so fond of the ‘perfume ads’ that Malick’s works have been deemed, this is another entry into the canon of films that I’m sure are nice to watch but not interesting. Malick walks a fine line. He is a man capable, as is the case with his 20-year hiatus, of enrapturing numerous famous A-list movies stars to join him. For instance, in 1998, The Thin Red Line featured Adrien Brody, Jared Leto, Woody Harrelson, Nick Nolte and George Clooney among (many, many, many) others. Similarly, he could snag Colin Farrell, Christopher Plummer and Christian Bale for 2006’s The New World. Yet, he has a penchant for cutting entire actors and people out of his movies without hesitation. Nobody is safe in the rushes.

However, watching Voyage Of Time, I am struck by the sheer audacity of this filmmaker to continue making art that transcends any qualitative or quantitative reasoning. His films literally transcend categorisation. Voyage Of Time, with a piquant voiceover from Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt (USA version) respectively, is the journey of the earth from life to the present.

Disembodied narration is a Malick staple but oftentimes it can feel disingenuous with plot – it is hard going watching a Malick film. Indeed, one must remain contented with long panoramic shots of trees in the wind or grass gently moving in the breeze. Nonetheless, the overarching ethos of his work is one of verve; of creativity and craft in equal measure. Film critics have often commented on the elusive themes which underpin his work – the spectacle and quiet beauty of nature, the paradigm of instinct vs. reason, the lure of an open road and the transcendence of the spirit – I believe that Malick’s work, with the year anniversary of Voyage Of Time deserve reappraisal. He is a director whose works find their place in future contemplation. They are constantly leaning into an intangible moment of future apotheosis.

Technically speaking, this is reflected throughout his work, particularly on Voyage Of Time. Harmonious and gorgeous lighting paints a composition that is full of dissolves into water. Certainly, the fluidity of the camera is that one is constantly in motion yet feels unable to move (particularly, the birth of nature in voyage of time reflects this). To be appreciated, watch in all its high definition glory. Malick utilises, often to great success, the beautiful cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki – seen most recently in The Revenant – possessed by the constant use of natural light. The temerity of Malick’s creative vision is ultimately that he requires no applause, no sense of approval. He creates visual wonders – visual epics – and his voyage of time is designed specifically to enrapture the viewer. As is his entire filmography.

As a Malick fan, I am often left perplexed and exalted. I always bear the feeling of having witnessed something magical. In Voyage Of Time, Malick captures that magic. The lightning in the bottle is preserved forever.

In defence of Terrence Malick

 

Words by James Hill

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