Name That Thistle: Terrence Malick Cutaway or Nature Documentary?

Slate's Culture Blog
May 26 2011 2:20 PM

Name That Thistle: Terrence Malick Cutaway or Nature Documentary?

If director Terrence Malick is known for anything, it might be his underbrush. A filmmaker as given to considering the lilies of the field as the characters in his films, Malick has made movies—Badlands (1973), Days of Heaven (1978), The Thin Red Line (1998), and The New World (2005)—that aren't so much Hollywood features as nature documentaries that happen to be about people. Indeed, for years, little was known about his upcoming film The Tree of Life other than that it would likely contain a cutaway from Brad Pitt to a squirrel.

In Malick's films, even the least of God's creatures gets a little love from the camera. Here's a short list of critters who have stolen screen time away from his human stars: rabbits, wild dogs, various lizards, cattle, freshwater trout, pheasants, raccoons, parrots, various insects, wild turkeys, and (in The Tree of Life) dinosaurs. As Observer film critic Jason Solomons tweeted when Tree of Life won the Palme d'Or, "Ironically, I think a Palme was the only bit of fauna and flora that wasn't featured [in the film]."

Forrest Wickman Forrest Wickman

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

Advertisement

While most filmmakers might not feel justified in lingering for nearly 30 seconds on a shot of waving wheat, we'd like to pay tribute to the man who did. So with all this in mind, we've drawn together the quiz below. Watch each clip—meditating on each beetle and blade of grass—and then ask yourself, "Is this a Terrence Malick film or a nature documentary?" (You can then highlight the space below each clip to see the answer.)

Clip #1 above is from: [    Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven (1978)  ]

Clip #2 above is from: [       Terrence Malick's Badlands (1973)      ]

Clip #3 above is from: [ Walon Green's The Secret Life Of Plants (1979)]

Clip #4 above is from: [   Terrence Malick's The New World (2005)  ]

Clip #5 above is from: [     Ken Burns' The National Parks (2009)    ]

Clip #6 above is from: [        Terrence Malick's Badlands (1973)      ]

Clip #7 above is from: [    PBS's Nature: Birds of the Gods (2011)  ]

Clip #8 above is from: [  Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line (1998) ]

How did you do?  Let us know in the comments.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The First Case of Ebola in America Has Been Diagnosed in Dallas

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Mad About Modi


Why the controversial Indian prime minister drew 19,000 cheering fans to Madison Square Garden.


Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Don’t Panic! The U.S. Already Stops Ebola and Similar Diseases From Spreading. Here’s How.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 6:59 PM The Democrats’ War at Home Can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 4:45 PM Steven Soderbergh Is Doing Some Next-Level Work on The Knick
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.