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Not Only a War-Movie

Histoire(s) Du Cinema - The thin red line

Not Only a War-Movie



After twenty years since Days of Heaven Terrence Malick’s comeback is a masterpiece which can’t just be defined by genres. Calling The Thin Red Line (1998) just a war-movie would be a huge mistake, there’s so much more to it: a deep study about human nature, a elegiac portrayal about the relationship between man and nature, and of course the painful show of WWII. 

Completely unable to follow a structured screenplay – supposedly based on James Jones novel – Malick prefers instead to lose himself by following his characters’ torn soul: in this way the audience walks with him among men whose bodies are forced to fight, while their nature is totally against violence. 

Unlike Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (released the same year) Malick’s opera doesn’t seek realism: the author’s vision wants to show the beauty of a lost paradise turned into hell by human insanity. His idea of cinema is also perfectly explained by John Toll’s incredible ability in lightning both faces and settings, turning them into visual poetry. The result is a film to be admired for its stunning battle scenes; however, in the end it is the drama of some single soldiers that remains stuck in our memory. And in the history of Seven Art. 

The Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, seven Academy Award nominees including best film and director, The Thin Red Line has a stunning cast of actors, all of them willing to work with Malick even for just one scene in the final editing: Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Woody Harrelson, John Travolta, Ben Chaplin, Elias Koteas, Jim Caviezel and last but not least George Clooney. An anti-war classic with no message. Just the astonishing power of its images. 

Adriano Ercolani

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