Terrence Malick’s first musical?
Malick isn’t one of the seven credited directors and co-directors on Lemonade, Beyoncé’s 57-minute “visual album” accompanying her music release of the same name. But the short film’s style — elliptical, dreamy, attuned to nature, fluidly filmed and imbued with esoteric voiceover work — is certainly influenced by his filmography. A barely disguised dramatization of Beyoncé coming to terms with the infidelity of her husband, Jay-Z, the movie weaves recurring motifs of Spanish moss and plantation architecture with traditional music-video segments: of Beyoncé, in a seethingly frilled yellow dress, taking a baseball bat to various muscle cars; of Beyoncé, wrapped in maroon, lying on a four-post bed in a room that is flooded with water; of Beyoncé, in a dripping white robe, leading a parade of women through Louisiana shallows.
Narrative coherence isn’t necessary (especially when the music is as radically syncopated as “Hold Up”). As the titles between segments indicate, Lemonade is more interested in capturing the pure state of specific emotional moments than in detailing the psychological transition from one to the next. And in the imagery chosen — not just involving Beyoncé, but also that of the women who surround her and the more documentary-like glimpses of other African-American female faces — Lemonade becomes more than a personal document. The film puts this one experience within a larger context, asking us to consider what it has meant, for generations, to be a black woman in America.
So if the form of Lemonade isn’t quite as masterful as what we’re used to seeing from Malick (one stretch in particular has the unfortunate aesthetic of a coffee commercial), the context is infinitely more compelling than, say, the familiar, privileged and artsy angst of something like Knight of Cups. Beyoncé herself is credited as one of the movie’s directors, as she was on some of her earlier videos. I’m looking forward to seeing what she does next.