(We’re going off topic here. If you think this topic is worth discussing, I’d be happy to go at it in a separate thread.)
But for now, off the top of my head:
2001: a Space OdysseyColor of Pomegranates
(Do Bresson’s films count?) L’Avventura (and many of Antonioni’s films)
Bresson was actually the first director that I thought of.
Ironically the character of Hal is actually very well developed in 2001. This adds an emotional core to the film.
I’d have to see 2001 again, but “very well developed” seems to pushing it. Ditto “emotional core.” (You wouldn’t say it’s a very emotional film, right?)
Hal is a complex character, and quite human. Spiteful, childish, calculating, vulnerable, not entirely good or bad. All of Kubrick’s movies are emotional in my opinion, including 2001. They paradoxically stir up feeling through their bleakness. I remember him once saying that feeling is the thing he pays most attention to when creating a film, and that makes sense to me.
I don’t want to veer too far off topic either, but the voyage to Jupiter has nothing resembling a well rounded character. HAL is the most interesting character in 2001, but he’s only in a portion of a film that is dominated by abstract qualities.
@Nathan — I agree that the rest of the film lacks developed characters, but I think Hal’s part anchors the film. Without his presence Kubrick wouldn’t have been able to so effectively create the feeling of human absence from the rest of the film.
I won’t say anything more about Hal until I see the film again. I do see how 2001 can be evoke emotions—maybe even strong ones—but I don’t think this comes from the characters or the performances—imo, of course. For me, if there are emotional moments, they’re more akin to a sense of awe and wonder that comes from a great aesthetic experience. But the film is very conceptual and idea driven (versus narrative or character driven).
@Jazz — We’ll just have to agree to disagree then. :) I think the film works on both levels: raw emotion and intellectual wonder.
Well now I just wanna watch 2001 instead of Terrence Malick. But seriously, I’ll probably watch 2001 soon. Maybe we’ll talk about it?
I haven’t seen the film in a while (but maybe this might motivate me to see it again), so I don’t know if I be able to contribute anything really meaningful. I bet there would be others who could, though.
I started with Badland and worked through them chronologically. Where is a good place to read Malick criticism?
You can catch them all in May at the Museum of the Moving Image. No matter what film you prefer, they all are much better seen on a big screen.
i would go chronologically. there’s only 5 and each is more astounding than the last. as to the debate about characters, i disagree that they’re not fully-formed characters. malick’s films are just not propelled by plot or aristotelean structures – sound, image, thought, process are paramount. the characters reside in that zone and so contextually they may appear not as fleshed out. sean penn said something, maybe on the TTRL dvd, about how the actors are the ink in malick’s pen, about how many moments on set were all about having a team assembled and malick deciding/reacting in the moment about what to film. which is to say, the actors are obviously a vital component of his movies but the movies are not necessarily subservient to their individual needs/wants. they, ie the characters, are inside the process
I think The New World is his greatest film, although it’s his most polarizing. I had my brother watch it first, and he fell in love with it before preceding to The Thin Red Line and others. You can really start with any of them, but even while he has a clear personal style, that style changes drastically from film to film. So if you don’t especially get or like the first film you watch, try the next one—it’ll probably feel quite different and you might have a different reaction.
“I’d have to see 2001 again, but “very well developed” seems to pushing it.”
I agree there. HAL does most of the talking in the film (the most expressive via language), the most and therefore is perhaps the most casually accessible “character” (again, via language) in the film. But it’s Bowman who is the most developed character (although, yes, he’s not developed via language) in the film. I do agree with Kate that we need HAL in order to be able to enter the film in the way Kubrick intends, though.
Another filmmaker who often works in roughly this way, it seems to me, is Claire Denis.
I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts about Malick’s style changing drastically from film to film. I didn’t notice that myself. There may be changes, but I wouldn’t call them drastic.
Are you referring the the general shift from the narrative elements of the film being fairly central (Badlands) to becoming fairly decentralized (by the time for get to Thin Red Line)?
Just recently rewatched The Thin Red Line (love it) – and I would also like to chime in and say watch his filmography in chronological order if possible. Within the past year I’ve rewatched all of his films. After seeing The Tree of Life in theaters I watched Badlands for the first time (I know…), then rewatched Days of Heaven (twice actually), then The New World (extended cut), then just last week The Thin Red Line. I think each film benefits from having seen the others and I find it interesting to pick up on recurring themes and motifs in his work. Also, if I had a friend who wanted to watch The Tree of Life but hadn’t seen any other Malick film, I’d till him/her to go back and watch the rest, chronologically, first. You also see an evolution in him as a filmmaker. I wouldn’t say his style changes drastically as Stephen mentioned, but yeah, an evolution is definitely clear.