Friday, March 29, 2013

A Butterfly Amongst Bullets: Malick's The Thin Red Line

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze distance.
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.
The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.
—Wallace Stevens, Of Mere Being
A story of men. Only men. American men. They know not why they are here. They know not their mission. They know not their purpose. They live. They die. They move on. One takes the place of another. The movement of spirit continues onward.
And yet their story is not the only story. A blue butterfly passes by as bombs shower down. A movement in cloud lights up blades of grass. Bats hang from below. These men fight their fight, as commanded by other men. But the world moves on indifferently. They do not flow like the children that swim freely in the waters, singing sounds of joy.

"Guadacanal is not the name of an island. It is the name of the graveyard of the Japanese army."
—Major General Kiyotake Kawaguchi
A story of men. Of all men. But really three men. Each in conflict. Not with an enemy. But with a philosophy.

The first man is the man of Ethics. He is grounded by what he sees, the faces of his men in pain. He has power, but not all power. But he rests his truth in logic, in the laws that define his existence. He refuses to bring death, and is punished for his beliefs. His ethics are founded in man, and man is always defeated by his principles.

The second man is the man of Love. He is fearful, but acts without fear. His love is carried inside of him, memories he conjures up to relieve the pain of now. His love makes him strong—he sees the horrors of man but remains stedfast in his love. But love cannot satiate one in this world. He receives a letter, crumbling his memories and his faith.

"Up above, the rest of the company watched."
—James Jones, The Thin Red Line

The final man is the man of Truth. He is a young man, perhaps foolish. But he shines and sees shining in others. He believes in the spirits beyond this world. The collective voice, the universal truth. His face smiles. He only looks on with compassion toward men and nature. He gives his life, but he gives it up freely. His voice sings with the rustling leaves. The calm, not the chaos.
A story of war, but not about war. A camera glides along with the men, watching over them with empathy for the journey they must take, but finding beauty along the rustle. It finds the beauty amongst the trauma. It does not ask about the names who were there, the victories or losses made, or the history that came to be. It finds solace in those who find solace in the experience of being.
One man sits upon a hill. His leg is torn to pieces. He may never walk again. But he sits in peace, waiting patiently and without question. He takes it all in. All things shining.

"Thus questioning, we bear witness to the crisis that in our sheer preoccupation with technology we do not come to experience the coming to presence of technology, that in our sheer aesthetic-mindedness we no longer guard and preserve the coming to of art. Yet the more questioning we ponder the essence of technology, the more mysterious the essence of art becomes.
—Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology

No comments: