Interviewer: Give Me the argument, the best argument you know, for the power of cinema.
Quentin Tarantino: Oh gosh, you know one of the things about cinema that I just find very moving, it’s why it’s my favorite art form, is when you go to a movie and you see a certain sequence, and if there is real cinematic power and there’s cinematic flare. There are certain filmmakers that you feel were touched by God to make movies and it would be a combination of editing and sound, usually it’s like visual images connected with music or something, but when those things work and they really connect..it’s just like you forget to breathe. You are really transported to a different place. Music doesn’t quite do that on it’s own, novels don’t quite do it, & a painting doesn’t quite do it. They do it their way but with cinama, especially if you’re in a theatre and you’re sharing the experience with a bunch of other people so it’s this mass thing going on..it’s just truly, truly thrilling.(x)
Terrence Malick and I don’t have a favorable relationship. The first film I ever saw of his was A New World and I found it to be one of the most boring films I had ever seen. The pace was excruciatingly slow, too much time was spent lingering on people’s gazes and I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. Then I saw Days of Heaven last semester and had the same experience with one main difference: I fell in love with the cinematography. Days of Heaven has the most beautifully conceived cinematography ever put on film.
In anticipation for The Tree Of Life and following a recommendation, I bought the Criterion edition of Malick’s The Thin Red Line. Unlike his other films, The Thin Red Line has the advantage of being a war film, which I always love. Furthermore, I mentally prepared myself for Terrence Malick’s unique direction in order to not repeat my previous experiences. After watching the film I am speechless, I can’t even begin to think of how I am going to discuss it. The Thin Red Line is unlike anything I’ve seen before and I mean that in every imaginable way.
One element that is always present in war films is both a sense of humanity and lack of it. As audiences we are plunged into a moment in history that depicts the worst of human kind. A moment that goes against our very nature but at the same time is an example of it, a side filled with such palpable suffering that is almost unimaginable. While many of us marvel and anxiously await for the fighting and shooting sequences in a war film, which in various films are used for exploitative purposes, Malick’s approach to war is so different that it doesn’t feel like a war film.
The Thin Red Line is an examination on humanity, on questions about death, life and on the purpose of war. Malick opts to spend increasingly amounts of time on characters speaking their thoughts. As a result we are led into who they are, into their emotional state and as characters discuss with each other the feelings of war, we further grow attach to them. That is why every death depicted in the film hurts. Even with characters that do not have that much screen-time, the pain and complete horror of their situation is so palpable that you can’t help but get emotional. Malick portrays their last minute in such an intimate, realistic and humanistic manner that I found myself crying a lot. You can literally feel the desperation during those last few breathes these soldiers take. Also since the film spends so much time examining how we’ve reached this point and asks what will come next, you begin to wonder what’s the point of war? Why is such a thing even exist? How can something so inconceivable be so eternally present in our lives?
You didn’t feel bad only for the Americans soldiers, but also for the Japanese soldiers. Malick doesn’t paint them as soulless villains like most war films, instead we demonstrates that they are human beings just like us. The Japanese were fighting and dying for an ideal and following orders just like the Americans. Yes, they were the enemies but their suffering was a million times more painful and the film rightfully makes than apparent. I didn’t want the American soldiers to kill the Japanese soldiers that laid down their weapons and surrendered. And when you see the Americans being so cruel to the ones who surrendered you feel resentment, but at the same time you understand their position. If I were one of those soldiers I wouldn’t think twice about killing a person who killed my friends.
Every single aspect of this film is genuinely beautiful, thoughtful and brilliant. The Thin Red Line is a prime example of masterful filmmaking. Each actors deserves an Oscar for their performance, Hans Zimmer’s score perfectly evokes a sense of beautiful trance and the cinematography is extraordinary. Terrence Malick has made one, if not the most human film I have ever seen in my life. The Thin Red Line is an outstanding portrayal of the human conscious and of how war isn’t exciting or desirable, it is filled with suffering, never-ending confusion and rapidly strips us of our humanity.
Stanley Kubrick: A Filmography.