© 2013 by James Clark
It’s been a long time since Terrence Malick strove, as an academic researcher, to bring focus to the bewildering cacophony of Heideggerian phenomenological insights and oversights. That is not to say, however, that he has turned his back on this endeavor, now that his métier is movies instead of monographs. The phenomenological imperative has for him taken the form of accelerating sluggish sensibilities (by way of surging visuals and sounds, as evoking voice-over narration) to pry open their innermost alarms. Alarm has always been the watchword for Malick’s investigative films, and the magnitude and delicacy of its filmed procession (its filmed phenomenality) need involve no apologies for being repeated from various angles through a number of decades.
But the very emergence of such threatening dismissal entails that world of alarm that can never really be passé. Someone somewhere has chided Malick about (supposedly) losing sight, in his most recent film, To the Wonder (2012), of the supposed axiom, “Beauty is not enough…” The assumption in this rather smug rejoinder is that prettification fails to speak to full-bodied discovery. Heaven forbid that the extraordinary enhancement of the action by cinematographic intensities should lead to wondering what challenges the “beautiful” panoramic and intimate rushes should pose. (more…)