The Ultimate Video Essay Guide to Terrence Malick

By  · Published on March 7th, 2017

Five essays, myriad perspectives on cinema’s artful rogue.

From the opening minutes of Badlands in 1973 right up to the trailer release for Song to Song just a few weeks ago, auteur Terrence Malick has captivated filmgoers worldwide with his poetic vision and narrative intangibility. Malick is a filmmaker for the senses, he’s not interested in getting you from point A to B to C, he wants to wander around his filmic landscape taking unexpected routes and drawing unexpected conclusions from the intersecting lives he’s set in motion. He began his career telling intimate, personal stories like Badlands and Days of Heaven, but since returning to a more regular filmmaking schedule in 1998 with The Thin Red Line, Malick has become something broader, a filmmaker tackling more philosophical and universal themes through his characters, a kind of idea-based Altman whose ensembles aren’t just made of people, but of the emotional perspectives from which they view themselves and the world, and the metaphysical foundations on which these perspectives are built.

Malick is an intentionally obtuse storyteller, and as such that leaves a lot of room for interpretation and inspection when it comes to his body of work, making him a favorite of critical writers and video essayists. In my tenure with Film School Rejects and One Perfect Shot I have come across literal dozens of videos dedicated to the intricacies and mysteries of Malick’s movies, and collected here for the first time in honor of #TexasWeek (Malick wasn’t born in TX but spent his childhood in Austin, which is where Song to Song is set) are eight of the finest I’ve found. They cover a range of topics from Malick’s interpretation of the four elements and other natural facets, to the myriad ways he communicates emotion, to his influence as felt in the films of his contemporaries. This isn’t everything you need to know about the inner workings of Terrence Malick, but it makes for a hell of a place to start.

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Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist