Terrence Malick and the Examined Life

Univ. of Pennsylvania. Mar. 2024. 416p. ISBN 9781512825602. $65. FILM/PHILOSOPHY
Terrence Malick is one of the most critically acclaimed filmmakers in history, with beautifully shot and deeply stylized films that are rooted in his lifelong interest in philosophy. Woessner (history and society, CUNY City Coll.; Heidegger in America) examines Malick’s relationship to philosophy in this book. Malick’s interest in the subject started at Harvard, but academic philosophy could not answer the questions in his mind, Woessner argues, so the ever-expansive world of cinema became the medium in which he sought answers. His films are not linear stories but experimental journeys into ideas of faith, purpose, and the meaning of life, often employing voice-over narration as a kind of inner philosophical monologue. Woessner covers each of Malick’s films, with commentary that’s perceptive, well-cited, and filled with background information on the film’s source material, production, and philosophical underpinnings. Woessner describes Malick’s filmography as well known, which is arguable (his films rarely reach mass audiences), but this book proves that it deserves to be.
VERDICT An exceptional and intriguing look at the career of Terrence Malick, an American filmmaking marvel.
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