Love Sick: Malick's Kierkegaardian 'Weightless' Trilogy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

his more recent work invites us to expand our understanding of ‘film as philosophy’ to encompass ethical and spiritual-religious experience. Indeed, his most recent films, what we might call his ‘love and faith’ trilogy (The Tree of Life, To the Wonder, and Knight of Cups), explore different conceptions of love, from the romantic and ethical to the spiritual or religious, but also express particular cinematic responses to the cultural-moral problem of nihilism that marks many of Malick’s films.

Malick’s later films push to the limit his experimentation with narrative abstraction, poetic voiceover, and the evocation of mood and emotion through image montage, camera movement, non-linear narration, and aesthetic perspectivism. Thoughts and ideas are intimated and expressed through visual patterning, shot rhythms, and mobile camerawork. Light and colour play a key role in invoking subjective states and shared moods far more than dialogue, overt action, or plot development.

All of these cinematic strategies are apt for the exploration of love in an age of sceptical disbelief. The films in Malick’s trilogy explore, in different ways, the insufficiency of individualistic conceptions of romantic love, its self-destructive tendencies in the absence of deeper communal, ethical, and spiritual-religious bonds. They offer a ‘Kierkegaardian’-style critique of the present age (a diagnosis of cultural malaise and moral-spiritual despair), and an exploration of the limits of different types of love in a troubled and confused modernity. Focusing on To the Wonder and Knight of Cups, I make explicit the cinematic ethics articulated in these films by examining the role of ethical proximity in each of them (witnessing the ethical significance of characters’ attitudes and responses but maintaining an aesthetic distance that eschews psychological interiority or a subjective account of their inner states). Malick’s trilogy thus articulates, I suggest, different versions of a Kierkegaardian trajectory moving from aesthetic, ethical to religious experiences of love, emphasising the grace and transcendence necessary to respond to the existential scepticism, psychological egoism, and cultural narcissism at the heart of our modern malaise.
LanguageEnglish
JournalParagraph
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 14 Aug 2018

Fingerprint

Trilogy
Aesthetics
Mood
Conception
Psychological
Religious Experience
Religion
Knight
Nihilism
Perspectivism
Experimentation
Skepticism
Witnessing
Narcissism
Poetics
Faith
Narration
Rhythm
Philosophy
Modernity

Bibliographical note

Special Issue on Religion in Contemporary Thought and Film, edited by Anat Pick and Libby Saxton.

Cite this

@article{23d45df1f9e44305afbd6c78b0946c59,
title = "Love Sick: Malick's Kierkegaardian 'Weightless' Trilogy",
abstract = "his more recent work invites us to expand our understanding of ‘film as philosophy’ to encompass ethical and spiritual-religious experience. Indeed, his most recent films, what we might call his ‘love and faith’ trilogy (The Tree of Life, To the Wonder, and Knight of Cups), explore different conceptions of love, from the romantic and ethical to the spiritual or religious, but also express particular cinematic responses to the cultural-moral problem of nihilism that marks many of Malick’s films. Malick’s later films push to the limit his experimentation with narrative abstraction, poetic voiceover, and the evocation of mood and emotion through image montage, camera movement, non-linear narration, and aesthetic perspectivism. Thoughts and ideas are intimated and expressed through visual patterning, shot rhythms, and mobile camerawork. Light and colour play a key role in invoking subjective states and shared moods far more than dialogue, overt action, or plot development.All of these cinematic strategies are apt for the exploration of love in an age of sceptical disbelief. The films in Malick’s trilogy explore, in different ways, the insufficiency of individualistic conceptions of romantic love, its self-destructive tendencies in the absence of deeper communal, ethical, and spiritual-religious bonds. They offer a ‘Kierkegaardian’-style critique of the present age (a diagnosis of cultural malaise and moral-spiritual despair), and an exploration of the limits of different types of love in a troubled and confused modernity. Focusing on To the Wonder and Knight of Cups, I make explicit the cinematic ethics articulated in these films by examining the role of ethical proximity in each of them (witnessing the ethical significance of characters’ attitudes and responses but maintaining an aesthetic distance that eschews psychological interiority or a subjective account of their inner states). Malick’s trilogy thus articulates, I suggest, different versions of a Kierkegaardian trajectory moving from aesthetic, ethical to religious experiences of love, emphasising the grace and transcendence necessary to respond to the existential scepticism, psychological egoism, and cultural narcissism at the heart of our modern malaise.",
author = "Robert Sinnerbrink",
note = "Special Issue on Religion in Contemporary Thought and Film, edited by Anat Pick and Libby Saxton.",
year = "2018",
month = "8",
day = "14",
language = "English",
journal = "Paragraph",
issn = "0264-8334",
publisher = "Edinburgh University Press",

}

Love Sick : Malick's Kierkegaardian 'Weightless' Trilogy. / Sinnerbrink, Robert.

In: Paragraph, 14.08.2018.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Love Sick

T2 - Paragraph

AU - Sinnerbrink,Robert

N1 - Special Issue on Religion in Contemporary Thought and Film, edited by Anat Pick and Libby Saxton.

PY - 2018/8/14

Y1 - 2018/8/14

N2 - his more recent work invites us to expand our understanding of ‘film as philosophy’ to encompass ethical and spiritual-religious experience. Indeed, his most recent films, what we might call his ‘love and faith’ trilogy (The Tree of Life, To the Wonder, and Knight of Cups), explore different conceptions of love, from the romantic and ethical to the spiritual or religious, but also express particular cinematic responses to the cultural-moral problem of nihilism that marks many of Malick’s films. Malick’s later films push to the limit his experimentation with narrative abstraction, poetic voiceover, and the evocation of mood and emotion through image montage, camera movement, non-linear narration, and aesthetic perspectivism. Thoughts and ideas are intimated and expressed through visual patterning, shot rhythms, and mobile camerawork. Light and colour play a key role in invoking subjective states and shared moods far more than dialogue, overt action, or plot development.All of these cinematic strategies are apt for the exploration of love in an age of sceptical disbelief. The films in Malick’s trilogy explore, in different ways, the insufficiency of individualistic conceptions of romantic love, its self-destructive tendencies in the absence of deeper communal, ethical, and spiritual-religious bonds. They offer a ‘Kierkegaardian’-style critique of the present age (a diagnosis of cultural malaise and moral-spiritual despair), and an exploration of the limits of different types of love in a troubled and confused modernity. Focusing on To the Wonder and Knight of Cups, I make explicit the cinematic ethics articulated in these films by examining the role of ethical proximity in each of them (witnessing the ethical significance of characters’ attitudes and responses but maintaining an aesthetic distance that eschews psychological interiority or a subjective account of their inner states). Malick’s trilogy thus articulates, I suggest, different versions of a Kierkegaardian trajectory moving from aesthetic, ethical to religious experiences of love, emphasising the grace and transcendence necessary to respond to the existential scepticism, psychological egoism, and cultural narcissism at the heart of our modern malaise.

AB - his more recent work invites us to expand our understanding of ‘film as philosophy’ to encompass ethical and spiritual-religious experience. Indeed, his most recent films, what we might call his ‘love and faith’ trilogy (The Tree of Life, To the Wonder, and Knight of Cups), explore different conceptions of love, from the romantic and ethical to the spiritual or religious, but also express particular cinematic responses to the cultural-moral problem of nihilism that marks many of Malick’s films. Malick’s later films push to the limit his experimentation with narrative abstraction, poetic voiceover, and the evocation of mood and emotion through image montage, camera movement, non-linear narration, and aesthetic perspectivism. Thoughts and ideas are intimated and expressed through visual patterning, shot rhythms, and mobile camerawork. Light and colour play a key role in invoking subjective states and shared moods far more than dialogue, overt action, or plot development.All of these cinematic strategies are apt for the exploration of love in an age of sceptical disbelief. The films in Malick’s trilogy explore, in different ways, the insufficiency of individualistic conceptions of romantic love, its self-destructive tendencies in the absence of deeper communal, ethical, and spiritual-religious bonds. They offer a ‘Kierkegaardian’-style critique of the present age (a diagnosis of cultural malaise and moral-spiritual despair), and an exploration of the limits of different types of love in a troubled and confused modernity. Focusing on To the Wonder and Knight of Cups, I make explicit the cinematic ethics articulated in these films by examining the role of ethical proximity in each of them (witnessing the ethical significance of characters’ attitudes and responses but maintaining an aesthetic distance that eschews psychological interiority or a subjective account of their inner states). Malick’s trilogy thus articulates, I suggest, different versions of a Kierkegaardian trajectory moving from aesthetic, ethical to religious experiences of love, emphasising the grace and transcendence necessary to respond to the existential scepticism, psychological egoism, and cultural narcissism at the heart of our modern malaise.

M3 - Article

JO - Paragraph

JF - Paragraph

SN - 0264-8334

ER -