Seeking the other shore : myth and history in the films of Terrence Malick

 

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dc.contributor.advisor Marx, Lesley en_ZA
dc.contributor.author Rijsdijk, Ian-Malcolm en_ZA
dc.date.accessioned 2015-11-08T05:06:13Z
dc.date.available 2015-11-08T05:06:13Z
dc.date.issued 2007 en_ZA
dc.identifier.citation Rijsdijk, I. 2007. Seeking the other shore : myth and history in the films of Terrence Malick. University of Cape Town. en_ZA
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/11427/14738
dc.description Includes bibliographical references (leaves 254-269). en_ZA
dc.description.abstract Terrence Malick is a unique director in contemporary film, an enigmatic and resolutely independent filmmaker who operates successfully within the studio system of Hollywood. His unusual career - which includes a twenty-year 'sabbatical' during which he appeared to have dropped out of the industry altogether - has produced comparatively little in the way of academic research, though there has been increased activity since the release of The Thin Red Line in 1998. The title - 'Seeking the Other Shore' - provides a thematic approach to the central exploration of the thesis: myth and history in Malick's films. As I argue in the introduction, Malick's characters constantly seek new shores within historical realities, but in so doing they imagine returns to mythic spaces that are either in the past or unattainable in the present. The films themselves provoke us to reconsider particular myths and their historical context. The Introduction includes a brief synopsis of Malick's career and a critical overview of both journalistic and academic writing. A major feature of his films - their intertextuality, from poetry and novels to visual art and music - is also introduced as it plays an important part in all the subsequent chapters. With the release of The New World (2005), I argue that the two recent films should be seen not only as continuing the major themes of historical reality and mythic quest in his 1970s films (Badlands, 1973, and Days of Heaven, 1978), but also as expanding those themes to include colonial encounters with strangeness which underpin the emergence of America as a modem cultural and political entity. Chapter One sets out the historical and mythic terrain upon which all of Malick's films are built, particularly America's nineteenth-century, post-independence character, the idea that America is a nation constantly seeking to renew itself but is never able to outrun the terrors of its previous incarnation, the sins of its fathers. In the section, 'Manufacturing Myth' I use definitions by Claude Levi-Strauss and Richard Slotkin to begin the conversation between history and myth, finding that myth is constructed, laid claim to, and used continuously, and whose claims and uses are inevitably contested. Myths based in history, are, in Richard White's words, "historical creations", and it is this ideological tension between myth and history that one finds in Malick's films. History provides the context for explorations of America's mythic character, myths of innocence, renewal, ambition, and robust individualism. Chapters Two through Five examine the feature films in chronological order. Badlands is discussed in terms of its hybrid genre (drawing on the western and the road movie), before I investigate Holly and Kit's "competing fantasies"- their different views of their adventure and the land through which they travel. Days of Heaven represents a complex examination of the Turnerian myth of the frontier and its transformation at the turn of the twentieth century. Malick's use of period photography is observed as is the influence of American literary naturalism. However, a more significant discussion emerges around the art of Edward Hopper and his modernist interpretation of America coming to terms with its twentieth-century character. The analysis in this section includes Badlands, and illuminates the influence of Hopper on both early films. The Thin Red Line poses something of a problem as it appears to depart from the first two films and The New World, which follows eight years later. As a combat film, it is part of a fairly well-defined and fiercely debated genre, while it's largely male cast and multiple voiceovers differ from the single adolescent female voiceovers of Holly and Linda. However, it challenges the norms of the combat genre in significant ways, particularly in its balancing of personal experience (Malick's screenplay is a subtle adaptation of James Jones's war novels) with historical context (the viewer is alerted, as one rarely is in this genre, to the world outside of the battle). In The New World, Captain John Smith literally seeks the other shore and, like Private Witt in the previous film, encounters a division within himself. In reaffirming the mythic romance between Smith and Pocahontas, Malick opposes the ambition of Enlightenment discovery (m the turbulent heart of Smith) with the sure sense of humanity's relationship with nature (m the calm spirit of Pocahontas). Once again, the film's historical context is the bedrock for its examination of myth, though as the revelatory conclusion, shows, Malick reaches for more spiritual meaning than affirming or revising the historical record. The four feature films that constitute Malick's directorial career thus far are all concerned with fundamental American myths; however, they are also unusual interpretations these myths. Young girls narrate the stories of violent men possessed by the possibilities of a frontier that has passed while young men struggle to come to terms with the extreme violence of battle and the overwhelming strangeness of their surroundings, no matter how 'right' the cause. These are myths born out of history and rendered as cinematic revelations by Terrence Malick. en_ZA
dc.language.iso eng en_ZA
dc.subject.other Film Studies en_ZA
dc.title Seeking the other shore : myth and history in the films of Terrence Malick en_ZA
dc.type Thesis / Dissertation en_ZA
uct.type.publication Research en_ZA
uct.type.resource Thesis en_ZA
dc.publisher.institution University of Cape Town
dc.publisher.faculty Faculty of Humanities en_ZA
dc.publisher.department Centre for Film and Media Studies en_ZA
dc.type.qualificationlevel Doctoral en_ZA
dc.type.qualificationname PhD en_ZA
uct.type.filetype Text
uct.type.filetype Image


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