research presentation - terrence malick - auteur

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Research Presentation Paige Neilson

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Research PresentationPaige Neilson

My hypothesisTerrence Malick is the auteur of his films due to his auteur features that are consistent throughout his body of work, thematic preoccupations and certain collaborations.

Primary sources (focal films):

Badlands (1978)The Tree of Life (2011)To the Wonder (2012)

I chose these three films because I believe they are all a good representation of Malicks distinctive style and demonstrate his use of consistent motifs throughout his body of work. I decided to choose one of his earlier films to show the development of his style and use of technology but also demonstrate that there is consistency (in terms of his style and motifs) throughout his body of work.

Badlands (1973) is an American crime film An impressionable teen girl from a dead-end town and her older greaser boyfriend go on a killing spree in the South Dakota badlandsMalicks first feature filmThe story, though fictional, is loosely based on the real-life murder spree of Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate in 1958

Progression from Badlands to nowAuteur features such as use of natural light and voiceover still used however have developed through technological advances (especially in The Tree of Life)Themes like death and relationships are consistent with his future workNarrative style has changed as his later work became less linear and more unconventional- can be interpreted as harder to follow

The Tree of Life (2011) an American experimental film drama that chronicles the origins and meaning of life by way of a middle-aged man's childhood memories of his family living in 1950s Texas, interspersed with imagery of the origins of the universe and the inception of life on Earth.

To the Wonder (2012) is a romantic drama art film, about a man and woman who fall in love in Paris and come home to Oklahoma where problems arise. Their church's Spanish-born pastor struggles with his faith, while Neil encounters a woman from his childhood.

My three sub- topicsAuteur features (visual style)Thematic preoccupations (recurring motifs)Collaborations

Auteur FeaturesMalick has a consistent visual style throughout his body of work as demonstrated through the following auteur features:Natural lightHandheld footageWide angle shotsMuted coloursHeavy use of voiceover (often whispered)Steadicam shots

Auteur TheoryCashiers du cinema argues that films should reflect the directors personal vision; an auteur is noted to have a distinctive personal style throughout his body of work.Andrew Sarris said that an auteur can recognised by technical competence and distinguishable style (the strong director imposes his own personality onto a film)Another theorist that supports this is Francois Truffaut who argued that the best directors have a distinctive visual style recognised by consistent themes and aesthetic ideas running throughout their body of work.Sarris: over a group of films a director must exhibit certain recurrent characteristics of style, which serve as his signature.David Kipen argues against auteur theory and proposes the Schreiber Theory which essentially suggests that the screenwriter s the auteur of a film.

A filmgoer seeking out pictures written by, say, Eric Roth or Charlie Kauffman wont always see a masterpiece, but hell see fewer clunkers than he would following even a brilliant director like John Boorman, or an intelligent actor like Jeff Goldbum. Its all a matter of betting on the fastest horse, instead of the most highly touted or the prettiest.Auteur theory basically suggests that consistent visual style throughout a directors body of work makes them the auteur of his films which I believe Malick has from the many auteur features that can be recognised throughout his films.The Schreiber Theory again backs my hypothesis of Malick being the auteur of his films as he writes and directs his films.

Examples within primary sourcesWide angle shots

Muted colour palette

Examples within primary sourcesNatural Light

Thematic PreoccupationsMalick has a consistent motifs throughout his body of work:Nature represents freedomThe meaning of lifeDeathRelationships (breaking down of relationships/ unconventional relationships)Spirituality

CollaborationsMalick has a consistent visual style throughout his body of work as demonstrated through the following auteur features:Emmanuel Lubezki- cinematographer (The New World, The Tree of Life, To the Wonder)Douglas Trumbull- Special Effects (The Tree of Life)Jack Fisk- Art Director (all of his feature films)Mark Yoshikowa (The New World, The Tree of Life, To the Wonder)

Douglas TrumbullSpecial Effects (The Tree of Life)Known for his work on films like 2001: Space Odyssey (special effects)Experimented with various ways to show the universe and the cosmos, e.g. he put water on a sheet of glass and sprinkle paint onto it to shoot with a Phantom camera at a thousand frames per second. This made what the produced unexpected and exciting on the screen.the whole agenda was to be free to experimentOrganic effectsThe Tree of Life segment with the birth of creation is reminiscent of Kubricks 2001: A Space Odyssey- Doug Trumbull did special effects for both- do these influences make his visual style not his own?

Collaborations- Emmanuel LubezkiHe has been the cinematographer of all of his latest films since 2005 onwardsIs a highly recognised and celebrated cinematographer also known for his work with Alfonso Cuaron Lubezki has a distinctive style in his own right demonstrated through his stunning use of natural light (very evident in Malicks films) and complex, long takesSome would argue that film is a collaborative art and there is no one auteur of a film. My hypothesis can be challenged by Malicks consistent collaborations, like Lubezki, and can suggest that his auteur features (that are highly cinematography based) are not his own personal style but a visual style created by a group of people. However, I believe that his consistent collaborations are just further suggests that he is the auteur of his films. His auteur features have been consistent from his first feature, like his use of natural light, but have merely been enhanced by working with other like minded people like Lubezki.

Malick as a perfectionist making him an auteurAs of 2015, Malick has directed a total of 7 feature films, having a 20 year break from films altogether between Days of Heaven (1978) and The Thin Red Line (1998). This can suggest that Malick is a perfectionist as he takes his time wight the films he makes (e.g. The Tree of Life was released 3 years later that predicted)When working on Badlands, Malick decide to replace the original editor of the film after he was unhappy with the cut of the film. . Malick himself and Billy Weber then recut the movie. Robert Estrin remains credited as the sole editor, however, with Weber credited as associate editor. This demonstrates how Malick wants things done right and proves that although film is collaborative, Malick has control over al aspects of the film, from pre- production to post- production.Malick's perfectionism is such that, along with prints of The Tree of Life on its US release last month, he sent a note "for the attention of every projectionist" ordering them to: show the film in its proper aspect ratio, dim the house lights well before the opening frame and ensure that the projector's "foot Lambert level is at Standard 14. The Guardian, The Observer Waiting for the magic hourHe is personally invested in his films (The Tree of Life and the death of his brother)

ConclusionIf Michael Bays the anti christ, hes the opposite of that. Mark Kermode He is personally invested in his filmsHis auteur features are consistent throughout his films as well as the motifs he often uses.