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Thin Red Line, The



Thin Red Line, The (1998)

Hans Zimmer 

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God yu tekkem laeg blong me
Of course, the movie is about how, and in what particular way, soldiers become philosophers at the horizon of death, and for this reason Hans Zimmer composed an almost New Age score. The movie is neither pro nor anti war in the sense that the very question of being pro or anti war is a sick joke at a place like al Kut, an Nasirya or Najaf as I write, for the philosophers of the USMC. As it was at Guadalcanal, is now, and forever shall be as long as we prefer Monkey Boys to golden lions, and say to the prophets "you shall not prophesy."

The best part of this is the entry of one Melanesian hymn, God yu tekkem laeg blong me. Melanesian church music was brought to Fiji and the rest of Melanesia by Methodists who'd learned to sing in four-part harmony during the 18th century.

During the 18th century, ordinary men were forbid to sing in High church ceremonies and, when jobless, were targets of the recruiting sergeant and press-gang. Many of them, after years of rum, sodomy and the lash, turned to Methodism as a way of reasserting their dignity and honor which was in the process of being industrialized for the profits of London merchants and used at "sparkling" naval actions and glorious victores in which God's vassals dropped and died.

The survivors walked away and became lay preachers, some in the South Seas, and they taught the warring aborigines (who it appears were due to isolation trapped in their own warlike cycle and at the end of their particular tether) how to sing together.

Today, Methodism is a dominant faith in Fiji and the rest of Melanesia and it has its own history.

As I write, not a few of God's vassals would like a ticket not home but out, and instead are being picked up by black freighters and informed by Sarge that this is the only world there is. Sarge is right and the music is a statement that he is. But there is no philosopher pushed to the limit who will not redefine "is" in the manner of Clinton because part of being human happens to be facing the worst with the memory and portent of angelic choirs. The nice thing about facing the worst with the memory and portent of unimaginable angels and what my son called "jungle trees" is that it allows one to persist in whatever folly or wisdom one has chosen.

Adorno was right and I keep referring, in these reviews, back to the gloomy sage of Frankfurt because he continues to astonish me as a sort of half-breed prophet of Yisroel. The only philosophy worthy of the name is that which considers all things from the standpoint of redemption. If redemption has a sound, it might be the choirs on this CD singing God yu tekkem laeg blong me. But in all probability this is only a symbol of the redemptory behavior seen in The Thin Red Line and not at all in Saving Private Ryan, and not at all the high-level planning, for that matter, of the illegal attack on Iraq: boneheaded planning that missed things a videogamer would see.

To say: this is not all: there is another, and better, world, may indeed be only a curious artifact of brain chemistry, and a self-secreted, endogenous opiate of the people, like the runner's endorphins. But this means we can stand outside that artifact and consider it nonidentical to [us], which is indeed what Sean Penn's Sarge does in the movie. If as Penn's character says, this war (or any war) is about property after risking his life to save another, then he is closer to the Atman, the thou art that, than some damn Yuppie gaining sentimental solace after a week of televised brutalization on CNN by listening to a CD, for God's sake.

Indeed, meditation is standing outside all artifacts and considering them nonidentical to [us]and this music is only a path to the waterfall in the style of Hollywood.

But what you wish for the Alone flying into the Alone, including a paratrooper of the 101st Airborne, is nothing but jungle trees and Methodist choirs. Kafir voices at the zenith said "we want to live forever" and there were articles in the press about scientific advances that would permit this if you had enough cash. To want this and to jump out of a plane into the danger zone, as the men take the ridge in the Thin Red Line, is to be blessed and to deserve the figured heaven of the Fundamentalist Moslem.

John Lennon said, imagine there's no heaven. It is almost as hard to reduce the multiplicity of heavens to one in which Moslems will have to share the dusky virgins, or what-all, with guys from Texas. Indeed, one would have to ask how people would get along in heaven, or whether it would have to be, of necessity, Valhalla, in which we'd fight all day, every day. Good chance by this logic that heaven is untenanted and good chance by what we do when we, ourselves, are Monkey Boy, that heaven is a silent and deserted luxury condominium tenanted only by God Himself, a lonely old man.

Please Remove the Rhetoric
This is in response to the review entitles: "God yu tekkem laeg blong me" by Edward G. Nilges.

Mr. Nilges, this is a place for reviewing music not for spouting unsubstantiated political Rhetoric. I am not writing this to argue with you, as this is not the place, I am simply requesting that when writing a review please do just that, REVIEW the product in question. Your overly long so called "review" makes very little significant reference to the Thin Red Line musical score and is riddled with opinionated and irrelevant political and religious undertones. If you wish to rant about the war or the reasoning behind it please do so elsewhere, this is not the appropriate place. I ask the board moderators for Amazon to please remove both this message and the one entitled: "God yu tekkem laeg blong me" by Edward G. Nilges, as neither are relevant to the musical score in question.

My response to the complaint
Dear Mr. Brad H. from Ohio:

I am intrigued, to say the least, to learn that what you call the rhetoric is not relevant to the music, for in fact I recapitulate what the artists (Malick and Zimmer) had to think about when making the movie and its score. And, I was offended, to say the least, to learn that in reviewing music, we must either repeat the most conventional sentiments (for these, it appears, are always "relevant") or somehow maintain the on-the-face-of-it absurd proposition that music points nowhere and is noise.

And I am very offended that the moderator of this group at Amazon has inserted your offtopic complaint. Your post is not "about" the music at all whereas there is a rather short chain of relevance between every sentence of my review, and the music.

A thoroughgoing application of "relevance" would mean that there would be one valid post of the form "I liked it" or "I did not like it". This would be useful to market research only, not to real flesh-and-blood listeners.

Your review is "about" your conventionality and authoritarian streak; for Malick's film is a comment about those who, like Steven Spielberg, glorified modern, industrial war as somehow heroic and who are war criminals, responsible for inveigling a new generation into a new "police action" in Iraq.

In my review I provide information that is useful to the listener of the Zimmer score who may very well be ignorant both of the film and the history of Oceania. It is for example not possible to understand the a capella singing in the score without understanding how pervasive Christianity is in Oceania.

I have traveled in Oceania near the islands where the film was made and its culture, and its brutalization by the Second World War, are most germane, most relevant, to understanding the film and the score.

Theodore Wiesengrund Adorno has reflected on the barbarism of deliberate forgetting horror in his comment on the possibility of poetry after the Holocaust. Absent the supplementary "irrevelances" of my post, the danger is that Zimmer's score becomes (as I said in the review) just more Muzak that Americans use to lull themselves to the growing barbarism of our domestic life and our international conduct, safe, or so they think, within their SUVs and with their state-of-the-art sound systems.

Therefore I ask the Amazon moderator to either post this at the Zimmer site, or remove Mr. Brad's comment. It violates the very rules he attempts to apply. My original post DOES NOT.

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