Tag Archives: Terrence Malick

A Hidden Life (2019) Review

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A Hidden Life

Time: 174 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
August Diehl as Franz Jägerstätter
Valerie Pachner as Franziska Jägerstätter
Karin Neuhauser as Rosalia Jagerstatter
Michael Nyqvist as Bishop Joseph Fliesser
Jürgen Prochnow as Major Schlegel
Matthias Schoenaerts as Captain Herder
Bruno Ganz as Judge Lueben
Director: Terrence Malick

Based on real events, A Hidden Life is the story of an unsung hero, Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl), who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War 2. When the Austrian peasant farmer is faced with the threat of execution for treason, it is his unwavering faith and his love for his wife Fani (Valerie Pachner), and children, that keeps his spirit alive.

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A Hidden Life was a movie I was paying attention to for a while. Terrence Malick is a divisive filmmaker, but I’ve seen almost all of his movies (not gotten around to The New World yet) and I liked most of them. After Tree of Life which most people liked, Malick got a little more experimental and loose with his narrative, and not everyone has warmed to his next few movies. A Hidden Life however seemed to be a lot more focused and conventional in terms of story, and I was curious what he’d be doing with this movie, especially with one based on a true story. Having seen it, this might actually be one of Terrence Malick’s best movies.

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First thing to note is that A Hidden Life is nearly 3 hours long. While I really like Malick, I always get the feeling of his movies being stretched out, and this is indeed one of his longest movies. I will say that you do feel the runtime here and I wish this movie was trimmed down just a little bit (probably mainly some parts with the main character’s family in the second half as it begins to be a little repetitive, but otherwise the length didn’t bother me too much, I was pretty invested. It doesn’t do that thing where it meanders like Knight of Cups, Song to Song or To the Wonder, it seems pretty steady with its focus on the story. The story is deeply emotional and reflective, and unlike some of his other movies, there is a strong dramatic backbone throughout. It’s also thematically strong, about right and wrong, faith, and the like. Although it was a long experience, I really felt it was all worth it.

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The acting from everyone is good, but it’s the two main performances that are particularly incredible. That is of August Diehl who plays the main character, and Valerie Pachner as his wife. Both gives generally internalised but very emotional and believable performances, deserving of very high praise. I do think it’s worth noting that this film also features the final on-screen appearances of Bruno Ganz and Michael Nyqvist.

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Terrence Malick as usual directs beautifully. You do get the familiar Malickisms, the beautiful music, the shots following people, the usual editing, voiceovers, if you’ve seen his other movies, you know what to expect here. While his style isn’t for everyone, I liked it, and he’s done some great work here. While Malick films are typically shot by Emmanuel Lubezki, this time the cinematography is done by Jörg Widmer, and it’s a gorgeous looking movie, making great use of the locations and environment. Definitely among some of the best cinematography in a 2019 film. It’s such an intimate movie and not on such a large scale like some of Malick’s other movies, but it’s directed just as well. While some have called some of his most recent uses of voiceovers to be bordering on self parody, with A Hidden Life, it definitely has a strong purpose. The music by James Newton Howard is also great and works perfectly for the movie.

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A Hidden Life is an emotional, at times harrowing, yet beautiful and excellently well made film, and a stand out from 2019. A Hidden Life probably won’t work for those who haven’t seen a Terrence Malick movie before, or aren’t a fan of any of his movies. However to those who are, it’s really worth checking out.

Song to Song (2017) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes, offensive language, nudity & drug use
Cast
Ryan Gosling as BV
Michael Fassbender as Cook
Rooney Mara as Faye
Natalie Portman as Rhonda
Cate Blanchett as Amanda
Lykke Li as Lykke
Val Kilmer as Duane
Bérénice Marlohe as Zoey
Holly Hunter as Miranda
Director: Terrence Malick

Set against the Austin, Texas, music scene, two entangled couples — struggling songwriters Faye (Rooney Mara) and BV (Ryan Gosling), and music mogul Cook (Michael Fassbender) and the waitress (Natalie Portman) whom he ensnares — chase success through a rock ‘n’ roll landscape of seduction and betrayal.

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Song to Song was one of my most anticipated films of 2017. I admit I was a little nervous going in because I didn’t know what to expect. The main attraction to me was the talented cast but even though I liked director Terrence Malick’s films Badlands and Tree of Life, I wasn’t really a fan of Knight of Cups. He has a very unconventional directional style which really makes him stand out, for better or for worse. Fortunately, I liked Song to Song, it seems that Malick had backed off from his style that he indulged in too much in Knight of Cups.

Song to Song, like most Terrence Malick films is very unconventional. It didn’t bother me as much, probably because I had recently seen Knight of Cups, which was way more arty than what we have with Song to Song. I think the reason why Song to Song worked for me more than Knight of Cups is because the main characters had personalities and characters of their own. In Knight of Cups, the supporting characters have more personality than the protagonist, and they usually only appeared in brief segments before disappearing. Here though, the main characters played by Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender have actual characters to work with. On top of that, unlike Knight of Cups, it’s not just a whole bunch of ideas thrown together, there is sort of a story (though not a very conventional or straightforward one at that). It doesn’t have much of a structure, it jumps between time periods and characters so it can be quite jarring and confusing. Despite how jarring and drawn out it could be at times, it had my attention. After a while it does tire you out, I wasn’t necessarily bored but the sequences often take a long time, it requires a lot of patience.

With Song to Song, Terrence Malick again has a great cast and fortunately this time they are actually utilised well. Apparently there was no script for this movie, so it’s a real credit to the actors for the performances that they gave. Rooney Mara is a standout, if there’s a main lead of this movie it would be her. Mara hasn’t really played this type of role before, and she is great here. Mara proves herself to be one of the best actresses working today. Ryan Gosling was also good, a lot of the main relationships that are focussed on most involve both Gosling and Mara and the two of them have really good chemistry. Michael Fassbender is also a standout in every scene he’s in, he really was a screen presence here and was great. Natalie Portman isn’t in it a lot but she is really great in the screentime she gets and made quite an impression. Other supporting actors like Cate Blanchett are also good in their screentime and make an impression. Other actors like Holly Hunter and Val Kilmer are very much just cameos in the movie and don’t really get to do much.

The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki (who has worked on many Terrence Malick films) is great and beautiful, like with all Terrence Malick films. Malick also encapsulated the music scene in Texas quite well. Terence Malick is also known for his odd editing, there have even been actors in his films who were cut out of the final product (Christian Bale for example was originally in this movie). So I had come to accept that there would be some odd editing here, however there was a bit of a problem here that wasn’t present in Tree of Life or even Knight of Cups. A lot of the times there are no scene transitions, so it would jump from one scene to the other and it feels clunky and messy, it doesn’t even feel like a stylistic decision. It jumps in time periods and locations and even if that was intentional, the way it was done was very off putting and isn’t particularly smooth. It felt like an amateur filmmaker editing these scenes and not a fully established filmmaker.

Song to Song is not for everyone and I can understand why a lot of people don’t like it. The film did drag as it went along and the editing was quite jarring and clunky. However there were a lot of aspects that really worked, especially the cinematography and its great performances from its talented cast (Mara and Fassbender being the standouts). As someone who liked Tree of Life and didn’t really like Knight of Cups that much, I liked Song to Song. I can’t tell whether you’ll like it or not but if you are familiar with Malick’s other films, I’d say give this a chance.

Knight of Cups (2015) Review

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes, offensive language & nudity.
Cast:
Christian Bale as Rick
Cate Blanchett as Nancy
Natalie Portman as Elizabeth
Brian Dennehy as Joseph
Antonio Banderas as Tonio
Wes Bentley as Barry
Isabel Lucas as Isabel
Teresa Palmer as Karen
Imogen Poots as Della
Armin Mueller-Stahl as Fr. Zeitlinger
Freida Pinto as Helen
Cherry Jones as Ruth
Nick Offerman as Scott
Dane DeHaan as Paul
Thomas Lennon as Tom
Joel Kinnaman as Errol
Jason Clarke as Johnny
Katia Winter as Katia
Nicky Whelan as Nicky
Shea Whigham as Jim
Ryan O’Neal as Ryan
Joe Manganiello as Joe
Michael Wincott as Herb
Kevin Corrigan as Gus
Director: Terrence Malick

A writer (Christian Bale) indulging in all that Los Angeles and Las Vegas has to offer undertakes a search for love and self via a series of adventures with six different women.

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I remember waiting for this movie for a long time. I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of it as Terrence Malick is a very polarising filmmaker but after watching and liking Tree of Life (which was quite unconventional as a film), I thought that I had a good chance of enjoying it. I recently watched Knight of Cups and… I really don’t know what to think of it. It is beautiful looking and it has a lot of great actors in it but otherwise it really didn’t do anything for me.

Describing the movie is hard. The basic structure of Knight of Cups is split into segments where Bale interacts with particular people. I’ve only seen 3 of Malick’s movies, Tree of Life, Badlands and now Knight of Cups and I liked the last 2. Even Tree of Life, for how unconventional it was I liked it but most of all, I could actually somewhat understand parts of it. I’m not even sure what Knight of Cups is supposed to be about, I couldn’t connect to it. So with that connection to whatever Malick is going for being gone, it takes away so much from the movie. When I’m just watching all these talented actors just internally monologing some deep poetic speech while the camera just follows them and I don’t understand what its supposed to mean, you can see how I would find it frustrating and pretentious. Don’t get me wrong, Terrence Malick no doubt had some idea of what he was filming, he wasn’t just filming nice looking stuff and calling it art. But whatever he was going for, I didn’t get it at all. The film drags consistently and constantly, at times its borderline a parody of a Terrence Malick movie with how self indulgent it is. I find it very difficult to recommend Knight of Cups to anyone, unless you are a die hard Terrence Malick fan.

There’s not really much to say in terms of acting, whereas most of the characters in a film like Tree of Life had some sort of character, from what I can tell all the characters in Knight of Cups represent ideas or something. Christian Bale here is pretty much like Sean Penn in Tree of Life, except he’s the main ‘character’ and appears from start to finish. He doesn’t really at any point become a character and just feels flat, Bale barely gets to do anything to leave an impression. Supporting actors include Cate Blanchett, Wes Bentley, Antonio Banderas, Natalie Portman and Imogen Poots and while they are good in their ‘roles’, they don’t leave too much of an impression either. Some actors involved were straight up cameos with Jason Clarke and Joe Manganiello, and supposedly Dane DeHaan and Joel Kinnamon was in it as well (I have no idea where they were though). The only performance that really stood out to a degree was Cate Blanchett but even then she’s not in the movie that long.

This movie is shot beautifully like all of Terrence Malick’s films. The locations, lighting, colouring, all of that was great and was probably one of the only things I liked in the whole film. That’s honestly is the only thing that I can guarantee you’ll think with Knight of Cups, that it looks great. The film also seemed to have a dream-like feeling to it, and the score by Hanan Townshend also played a part in that.

Having finally seen it, I can see why Knight of Cups was so divisive. I’m not entirely sure I actually like it myself. And it’s not that I don’t like Terrance Malick as a director, I liked Badlands and Tree of Life, and the latter was very unconventional. I guess I just connected a lot more with Tree of Life than Knight of Cups, which is why with KOC, it really didn’t work for me. I guess the movie is beautiful looking and that’s somewhat enough for me to call it somewhat above average but only just. If you flat out don’t like Terrance Malick’s other films, you’d probably hate Knight of Cups. I’m going to try watching Song to Song sometime soon, and I’m just hoping that Knight of Cups was the most Malick film he ever made.

The Tree of Life (2011) Review

Time: 139 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Brad Pitt as Mr. O’Brien
Sean Penn as Jack O’Brien
Hunter McCracken as young Jack
Jessica Chastain as Mrs. O’Brien
Tye Sheridan as Steve
Kari Matchett as Jack’s ex
Joanna Going as Jack’s wife
Director: Terrence Malick

In this highly philosophical film by acclaimed director Terrence Malick, young Jack (Hunter McCracken) is one of three brothers growing up as part of the O’Brien family in small-town Texas. Jack has a contentious relationship with his father (Brad Pitt), but gets along well with his beautiful mother (Jessica Chastain). As an adult, Jack (Sean Penn) struggles with his past and tries to make sense of his childhood, while also grappling with bigger existential issues.

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Tree of Life was a movie I was curious about. I wanted to see a couple of Terrence Malick movies before seeing his latest film (Song to Song), so that I could get used to his style beforehand, so I decided to start with one of his most well known movies, Tree of Life. I expected to see an unconventional, arty film which is visually beautiful, and I really wouldn’t know how to feel about it afterwards and indeed that’s the movie I ended up with. I was left polarised and confused by the end of the movie but yet I think I like the movie. It’s very difficult to describe my experience with the movie.

Tree of Life is not an easy movie to describe, I think the best way to describe all this is to tell how I felt during the movie. This movie is unconventional to say the least. The first 10 minutes focusses on Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn, during this I didn’t know what to think. I couldn’t really tell what was going on. 20 minutes in, there is a 10 minute segment which pretty much featured the universe being created (there’s no better way of describing it). It focusses on random aspects, stars, meteors, nature, animals, plants, even dinosaurs at one point. I was intrigued by what I saw but didn’t know what to really think. The rest of the movie for the most part focussed on the family (Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken, Tye Sheridan) as time goes by. At that point, I started to oddly enough like this movie and I was interested in seeing everything progress. After the family segment, I’m not really sure what to think of the movie, I don’t even know what the ending was supposed to mean and represent. I don’t really know what this movie is about (apart from life). The movie does have a lot of monologues throughout the movie, though I didn’t find myself picking up on what they were meaning. I can see how other people would be bored of the movie, it is very slow paced. I only really started being fully engaged after 30 minutes into the movie. But yet there is something about it that I liked, I haven’t yet figured out what it is.

This movie has a lot of talented actors with Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn and Tye Sheridan. They are all pretty good, with Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain being the stand outs as the parents of the family. Even when they aren’t saying anything, it’s easy to see how they feel in certain situations just through their expressions and reactions. Sean Penn doesn’t really get to do much, most of his limited screentime is him just walking around while Terrence Malick follows him around with a camera. With that said, this happens with every actor, a lot of the movie at times just follows the actors/characters around with them having no dialogue and not doing anything that important. I’m guessing that this is what happens with every actor in Terrence Malick movies.

One thing that all people who see this movie will say is that Tree of Life looks absolutely beautiful. Every shot is framed well and looks magnificent. Even the 10 minute ‘creation segment’ was beautiful. I couldn’t tell always what the shots of certain aspects were supposed to represent, but they looked beautiful at the very least. And plus, a lot of the time Malick manages to make the audience feel emotions through his imagery. The only thing directionwise that’s off was a scene with dinosaurs, the CGI looked incredibly fake, embarrassingly bad, and it kinda takes you out of the movie. The soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat was great and really added to the movie.

Tree of Life is not an easily accessible movie. There are a lot of people who really don’t like this movie and find it to be pretentious and boring and I don’t really blame them for thinking this. Tree of Life is different, it’s slow, it’s unconventional. But if you are willing to give it a shot, I recommend watching it. Just know what you are going in for. I myself am not sure about what I had watched but I liked it at a point, it’s difficult to describe why. I get the feeling that Malick’s films are meant to make people feel emotions rather than it be technically good like most movies, not conventionally anyway. I know this review hasn’t been very descriptive of the movie, but honestly that goes to show how unusual of a movie this is.