Film & Docs
Rosy-Fingered Dawn - Terrence Malick
Fascinating documentary on the brilliant but reclusive film-maker who has made just three films in 30 years (Badlands, Days of Heaven, Thin Red Line) to huge acclaim
Film director Terrence Malick is famously reclusive: he has directed just three feature films - Badlands, Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line - during his 30-year career, yet has received enormous acclaim for his small output. (He recently pulled out of working on another film, the planned biopic of Che Guevara).
Malick's three films are explored in this revealing documentary, and is known as much for his distinctive, era-defining movies as for his chronic shyness. Malick himself does not give an interview to the makers of Rosy-Fingered Dawn, such is his determination to remain anonymous. (This is the man who had a clause written into his contract for The Thin Red Line which prohibited any current pictures of him being published.)
The documentary therefore concentrates on his films, beginning with his debut Badlands, which he wrote, produced and directed. Badlands is based on a real-life killing spree which began in Nebraska in 1958; yet in Malick's hands, the tale becomes a coming-of-age story of a couple on the run. Made in 1973, the film stars Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek as Kit Carruthers and his young girlfriend Holly Sargis who leave a trail of dispassionate and seemingly random murders across the badlands of Montana after Holly's father objects to their relationship. A lyrical story of alienation, the film lacks the traditionally sensationalist approach of the genre, offsetting the violence with beautiful photography: Malick fired two cinematographers during the making of the film before getting a result he was satisfied with.
The second half of the documentary concentrates on his latter two films, Days of Heaven - a tale of money, marriage and deception in the deep South from 1978 - and the most recent of the three The Thin Red Line, Malick's adaptation of James Jones's autobiographical World War II novel, made in 1998. In addition to fleshing out the films with cultural background and location history, the documentary also draws on the experiences of many of the actors who have worked with Malick - a list that contains some of the most representative figures of American movie culture including Sean Penn, Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, James Caviezel and Elias Koteas.
While Malick himself may remain elusive, the opinions and memories of those who have worked closely with him provide a revealing picture of the man and his methods. A unique insight into the work of a deservedly revered director, this is a rare chance to get a little closer to the public face of a very private individual.
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