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Challenging the Border as Barrier: Liminality in Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line

Holger Pötzsch


This paper is about the cultural production and negotiation of borders and boundaries in and through contemporary Hollywood war and action movies. It works on the assumption that the way borders are represented in artifacts of popular culture has an impact on political discourse and, therefore, on border practices. War and action movies are read through the concept of the border, i.e. the way in which conventions of representing self and other, friend and foe, give rise to epistemological and topographical barriers limiting the subject positions available within a particular movie discourse are sketched out. After having assessed these border effects in Aliens, Black Hawk Down, and 300, the article turns to The Thin Red Line. The concept of liminality is introduced in order to describe the techniques through which Malick's movie challenges and disrupts the notion of borders as barriers interlocking self and other in relations of mutually exclusive hostility. In reconfiguring the border as a zone of contact and negotiation, liminality enables a subversion of the subject positions implied by these barriers and enables a reconstitution of both the divided entities, effectively turning dogs-of-war back into human beings.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229