The Roving Eye
By Tony Zaza
BE NOT INHOSPITABLE TO STRANGERS LEST THEY BE ANGELS IN DISGUISE.
The Better Angels, Terrence Malick’s silent black and white movie restores the
promise of cinema as a medium that can invade conscience. Once viewed psychic
apathy is impossible. Poetically bleak and somber, the coonskin voiceover narrative
conveys a kind of hillbilly incantation of loss. It’s not a film to toy with your
passions or your sense of storytelling. You must bring imagination and take the
warning, we are no longer pioneers, just consumers.
Profiling of Lincoln’s boyhood in 1817 Indiana, The Better Angels seeks a more lofty
goal, invoking condolences for our romantic notions of freedom and democracy. It’s
the first movie with a heart since 1999.
Malick was the one of a trio of aspiring filmmakers born of prehistorical USC that
includes Speilberg and Lucas. His gift unlike the others was solemnity of spirit and
its brought to full fruition here. He’s fashioned a lament not just for the loss of the
simple life, but for the demise of civility.