If there is a filmmaker who divides viewers between those who love him and those who can’t stand him, that is Terrence malick the creator of ‘The Tree of Life’. Belong to one group to another, it is undeniable that Malick is an essential filmmaker, pure history of cinema whose filmography it is necessary, at least, to try to see. So that you don’t get lost in this difficult task, here is everything you need to know to start discovering it.

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    Who is it?: Born in Waco in 1943, those who criticize this farmer (in his youth), who finished his studies at the American Film Institute, as a cheap philosopher, often forget that he graduated with the highest praise in Philosophy from Harvard University. Of evident genius since his student days, he exercised Free throw for publications such as New Yorker or Life until graduating in film studies. He dedicated himself to the correction of scripts (among them, they say, the one of ‘Harry the dirty one’) until managed to lift his first film. Badlands, 1973, made him known among critics but it was ‘Days of Heaven’ (1978) that started a legend that only got bigger for the next two decades. He did not direct again until 1998 with ‘The thin red line’, a triumphant return that caused many to describe his next work, ‘Un nuevo mundo’, as a failure. Again, it resurfaced in style in 2011 with ‘The tree of life’, the film that awarded him a Palme d’Or and he definitely divided his audience between those who love him and hate him. With strong religious convictions and a mysterious private life, without giving interviews or allowing himself to be photographed, his cinema has increased its frequency but also its eclecticism.

    Philosophy: Terrence Malick’s work with actors has been widely criticized. The characters in the last section of his cinema seem not to be the center of the images, but one more part of them. Their dialogues are usually heard in off while the images are occupied by their movements, with the same importance as the rays of light that cross the frame. The script seems to fall apart, becoming single stanzas with a slight common thread, always giving the impression that the assembly hides much more behind it. Malíck has gradually evolved his filmography towards images, which seem to occupy everything in a much more rhythmic and visual than narrative sense. Some call him pretentious, others call him a poet, but if there is one thing for sure, it is that Terrence Malick is not a simple storyteller. In fact, anyone would say that it destroys them. His cinema, complex and confusing, aims to be an emotional and poetic fresco where the story is only the base, as if it were the lyrics of a song that you don’t have to understand to be able to enjoy.

    A famous phrase: Terrence malick does not give interviews or make public appearances so there are no more sentences from him than those written for the characters in his films.

    A phrase to say in front of moviegoers: Malick, like any great filmmaker, has to be felt rather than understood.

    A phrase that you can NOT say in front of moviegoers: I was one of those who left the cinema at the beginning of ‘The Tree of Life’ to get my entrance fee back.

    A memorable scene:‘The tree of life’ surprised everyone but did not appear suddenly. In the last scene of ‘The New World’, a very personal adaptation of the Pocahontas story, Malick closes with a sequence that seems to unite all his cinema, from his beginnings to his last films. And it is that in ‘The New World’ the conventional narrative seems to be losing itself in nature, like its protagonist. At the end we see the protagonist and her son play as if they were still in the jungle, despite the fact that they are already in full civilization. We see death but also life and nature. Malick’s camera begins to fly, to make allusions and to go from one place to another looking for the feelings expressed by the few voice-overs that sound. If you’re a fan of Terrence Malick from ‘The Thin Red Line’ but can’t stand him from ‘The Tree of Life’, we’re sorry to tell you that the culprit is this final scene.

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    – ‘Bad lands’ (1973):Until this movie Malick was a simple script checker, Spacek ladybug a television promise and Martin Sheen an actor who was beginning to be too old not to have stood out. With just $ 300,000 in budget, Malick did more than just bring this road movie upon the real killer Kit Carruthers, who killed his teenage girlfriend’s family and eloped with her, leaving a dozen more bodies along the way. Sheen has said that never in his life has he had the impression, from the first moment, of being in the presence of a genius. Blind confidence, improvisation and talent, all of that made up this road movie unique murderer, in which the narrative neither judges nor exploits violence. “Your gun is like a magic wand, you use it and puff” Sheen says that Malick told him about the murders of his character. With an obvious European tone but a strong landscape settlement in the deepest America, ‘Badlands’ is a great example of how American cinema changed in the 70s. In addition to the great George Tipton soundtrack, the film has a small cameo of the director himself replacing an actor, one of the rare occasions when we can get to see his face and hear him speak, even if it’s just a phrase.

    Malick with Martin Sheen during his cameo in ‘Bad Lands’

    Sunset Boulevardfake images

    – ‘The thin red line’ (1998): 20 years without news of which, with only two films, already had the label of genius of cinema. Malick returned with this war tale with one of the most stellar casts in memory: Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, John Cusack, Adrien Brody, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, Jared Leto, John Travolta, George Clooney … Everyone wanted to be around Malick’s lap. The result was none other than one of the most acclaimed war movies in movie history. Without a clear protagonist, it tells the misadventures of a company to take a vitally important hill, during World War II, against the Japanese army. But Malick did not visit the war genre to film the war like everyone else. Here the soldiers are not brave or patriotic, the deaths come quickly and without sentimental speech, the battles do not have an artificial and orchestrated rhythm to be interesting on their own, etc. ‘The Thin Red Line’ is one of the few war movies that really seems to reject war At all times, here the war does not entertain but, if you know how to watch, everything else does.

    The Tree of Life

    ‘The Tree of Life’


    – ‘The tree of life’ (2011): Recognized by many as one of the most important films of this century, ‘The Tree of Life’ it was an event since its premiere but it also forever divided critics and audiences with a Malick who, decidedly, had taken a new path (for now with no return) in his cinema. As before Almendros, we cannot do without the name of Emmanuel lubezki when talking about the film and its powerful images Can humanity and its history be portrayed in a film? Malick believed so and for many he succeeded. The film flies over from the very creation of the world to the extinction of the dinosaurs to reach the individual in all his uniqueness. He’s Sean Penn but Malick cares more about his childish self, the one that received the sweetness, sensitivity and love of his mother (Jessica chastain) and the violence, pressure and hatred of his father (Brad Pitt). For those who want and manage to enter, ‘The Tree of Life’ is a sidereal journey that manages to catch the extraordinary, and not only because of the planets and dinosaurs, but because it films them in the same way and with the same amazement as a mother playing, laughing and looking at her son. In both, there is humanity (and the miracle it represents) in its entirety, you just have to know how to look at it. Malick, and Lubezki, are our best option to get it.


    – ‘Days of Heaven’ (1978):This second Malick film perfected every aspect of his groundbreaking debut. Apparently, it also emptied it so much that it took two decades to return to the cinema. The barcelonian Néstor Almendros won the Oscar for Best Cinematography for an absolutely disarming job. It tells the story of a couple who get a job on a farm because the owner has fallen in love with the girl. The man, Richard Gere, pretends they are brothers to stay. Logically, the relationship between boss and servant is narrowing until the prostitution agreement of both protagonists is jeopardized. But Malick is a filmmaker who cannot detach himself from his images or to explain his stories. Here, along with Almendros, it surrounds the house with more than just wheat. The dark, magical aura creates a thriller look that clashes with the quietness of the storytelling. Like its main pictorial reference, Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World,” the simple story of love and betrayal gains weight and power through the rarefied atmosphere. A kind of spiritual presence that is evident in the scene of the fire, a sequence that will always make us wonder if it is ‘Days of Heaven’, and not another, the most beautiful pictures film in the history of cinema.

    heaven days photography

    Paramount images

    – ‘Song by Song’ (2017): Commercial cinema tends to emulate the fictional narrative of literature. ‘Song to Song’ is much more about how to tell stories than the lyrics of a song or the lines of a poem. We could say that the entire album tells the turbulent love story between Rooney Mara and Ryan Gosling, but it does so by flying from one place to another, joining together, reflecting and leaving many things in the air. This is where grudges, jealousies, breakups and second-class physical and sexual loves pass through. To illustrate, they appear, among others, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman or Cate Blanchett. ‘Song to Song’ falls into all those topics that the least reflective attribute to “presumptuous” cinema when they do not want to recognize a work that sincerely and directly seeks another way of telling stories. He doesn’t just do it through music, but like music. It will hit Spanish theaters on September 25, 2020.

    terrence malick and rooney mara on the set of 'song to song'

    Terrence Malick and Rooney Mara on the set of ‘Song to Song’

    Rick kernfake images

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