Terrence Malick isn’t so much a filmmaker as a poet. Rather than relying on traditional narrative framework (especially in his later films), Malick relies on nature to create visual poems on celluloid. Blindly picking a random frame from Malick’s modest filmography, there is a rather high chance of a close-up of a plant or a wide landscape free of humans. This is because nature itself is a character in a Malick film–sometimes even more so than the human characters. There is a reason why Malick often chooses to cut to a blowing leaf or a low-angle shot of tall trees during moments of poignancy. In a way, these images express something that more traditional misty-eyed close-ups of professional actors simply cannot. We learn more from lingering on a stream than we do from dialogue. The swaying tree tells us more about a character’s past than flashbacks can. Rays of sunlight through a rain-forest canopy put the entire film in perspective. While these elements may be simple, they seem to be something only Malick can pull off successfully. Many filmmakers are inspired by them and even more copy them, but only Malick can create in this way. His imagery possesses a certain level of truth due to the fact that he himself finds stories in nature. Here is a look at some of Malick’s best shots of his favorite storyteller, nature.
Jacob T. Swinney is an industrious film editor and filmmaker, as well as a recent graduate of Salisbury University.