Terrence Malick's The thin red line and Homeric epic: spectacle, simile, scene and situation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line (1998) engages with Homer, via Heidegger on the pre-Socratics, in order to ask questions about the ‘spectacular’ aspects of warfare and their narrativization in film. As we watch a beautiful early morning sky, an ambitious, glory-seeking commander boasts about how he read Homer during his officer training and cites a well-known Homeric epithet as we watch a beautiful early morning sky (‘Ἠώς ῥοδοδάκτυλος’… ‘Rosy Fingered Dawn’). This moment signals the film’s complex reception of Homer. Where the ‘anti-war’ sentiment of many recent combat films is undercut by an imperative to entertain and seduce their audiences with spectacular violence, Malick draws on the dynamics of Homeric similes and scenes to expose and de-center the spectacular seductions of war and their filmic reproduction. This fresh vision is articulated through the film’s emphasis on the spectacular wonders of nature and the ‘other world’ that they reveal.

Keywords: Terrence Malick, Homer, Iliad, spectacle, heroics, The Thin Red Line, similes, Homeric similes, war films, epic.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWar as spectacle
Subtitle of host publicationancient and modern perspectives on the display of armed conflict
EditorsAnastasia Bakogianni, Valerie M. Hope
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781472524539, 9781472527554
ISBN (Print)9781472522290 , 9781350005884
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2015


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