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AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES: THE FILMS OF TERRENCE MALICK

Terrence Malick, Days of Heaven, 1978, 35 mm, color, sound, 94 minutes. Foreground: Bill (Richard Gere).

WILL To the Wonder—or TO THE WONDER, as the film’s end credits have it—finally dispel the aura of reverence that has settled over the cinema of Terrence Malick? The late creation of an artist can act as an alembic, concentrating and thereby heightening the qualities of his former work, Robert Bresson’s L’Argent (1983) being only the most imposing example. And To the Wonder, like Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia (1983) and The Sacrifice (1986) (both of which Malick has drawn from, particularly in 2011’s Tree of Life), distills all that is intolerable in its maker’s films. Ironically, To the Wonder is positioned as a departure, the first in Malick’s oeuvre, aside from a few uneasy sequences in The Tree of Life, to be set in the present day. That apartness—Terry Does Contemporary—serves to reveal that Malick’s stylistic traits, previously identified as auteurist

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