Monday, September 03, 2018
Steven Rybin on Terrence Malick’s Badlands.
Both Holly and Linda here—like Chaplin throughout his oeuvre— open up a world through their creative interpretation of the earth, and their expressive creativity forms a potential intervention—a new worlding—into and of the already-worlded world that surrounds them. But unlike classical voice-over narrators, who work to clarify aspects of narrative or character psychology for the viewer, and unlike Chaplin, whose graceful and theatrical appropriation of objects comprises the primary attraction in viewing his films, Malick’s characters do not hold together or settle the meaning of imagery or efface its ongoing sensuous presence in our own experience. If anything, the interpretive work of Linda and Holly—and, as we will see in more detail in the next part of the chapter, the multiple narrators of Malick’s two later films—far from “using up” the sensuous materiality of Malick’s images, make this sensuousness stand forth even more luminously. In this respect, Malick’s narrators embody the quality of striving that Heidegger discusses in the artwork essay. Existing not as mute, dumb material, nor as an objectively enframed fictional world that might be clinically analyzed through the discursive tools of formalism, the experiential frame of Malick’s films make possible a striving wherein, as Heidegger puts it, the “work-being of the work consists in the fighting of the battle between world and earth.” In other words, artworks exist for Heidegger in a state of phenomenological aliveness and productive temporal tension. They exist not to settle questions of Being for us, but to open up those questions, and to dynamically set in motion an interplay between the sensuous material of the cinema and its potential philosophical significance.
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