, Jarrod Shanahan on the problem with Malick
Guided by the morose tradition of Christian existentialism, the manic spiritualism of Soren Kierkegaard and the nostalgic anti-Modern theology of Martin Heidegger saturate Malick’s films with two centuries of Christian angst that sees nothing outside the relationship between individuals and themselves and their God, and has no faith in the capacities of humans to reverse the course of their damnation since the Fall except for faith.
Mystified by a world falling to shambles outside of their control, Malick’s characters are left to turn inward, searching vainly within themselves for answers, and failing that, doomed to address their impossible questions to an absent God. Malick’s humanity exists as a mass of confused individuals, uprooted from their historic communities, alienated from an environment they can’t seem to stop destroying, and utterly perplexed as to the nature of their existence in the universe, let alone how to bring about their desire for an authentic relationship with themselves, their fellow humans, and the world they inhabit. The unspoiled authenticity of days past, which Malick projects onto women, natives, and more excusably, children, seems lost forever, as disfigured human subjects grope in vain as powerless individuals for their lost pasts.
I'm alienated from movie montage driven for visceral response, so I appreciate films that inhabit a world and make it shine. To the Wonder
is the best recent film I've seen this year. It's kind of like with Simone Weil. Morose, yes, but only from having glimpsed grace and the possibility of the sacred.