Terrence Malick presents

the
Better Angels

a film by A.J. Edwards

starring Jason Clarke, Diane Kruger, Brit Marling,
Wes Bentley, Braydon Denney

cast/crew

  • Tom Lincoln: JASON CLARKE
  • Sarah Lincoln: DIANE KRUGER
  • Nancy Lincoln: BRIT MARLING
  • Mr. Crawford: WES BENTLEY
  • Abe: BRAYDON DENNEY
  • Dennis: CAMERON WILLIAMS
  • Sally: MCKENZIE BLANKENSHIP
  • Johnny: RYAN MCFALL
  • Matilda: MADISON STILTNER
  • Uncle Thomas: BRUCE BAYARD
  • Aunt Elizabeth: VEANNE COX
  • Reverend Elkins: ROBERT VINCENT SMITH
  • Ben: ADAM TETTERS
  • Young School Girl: IDA JOY
  • William: RILEY BRUTVAN
  • Writter and Director: A.J. EDWARDS
  • Producers: CHARLEY BEIL, NICOLAS GONDA, TERRENCE MALICK, JAKE DEVITO
  • Executive Producers: ANTOINE DOUAIHY, JASON KRIGSFELD, JOSEPH KRIGSFELD
  • Co-Executive Producers: CLAUDIA KOWALSKI, KEVIN KOWALSKI, MICHAEL KOWALSKI, STEFAN SONNENFELD
  • Director of Photography:
    MATTHEW J. LLOYD, CSC
  • Production Designer: CAROLINE HANANIA
  • Costume Designer: LISA TOMCZESZYN
  • Editor: ALEXANDER RICHARD MILAN

history

Abraham Lincoln’s youth in Indiana occurred during a period known as the Second Great Awakening, a time of enormous growth in several Christian sects especially the Methodists and Baptists, who preached a gospel of individual freedom and a personal connection with God. This movement started in the 1790s and gained notice in 1801 when 20,000 people attend a four-day revival meeting at Cane Ridge, Kentucky. At outdoor revivals and camp meetings throughout the country and especially along the frontier, traveling preachers encouraged public confession of sins and an emotional conversion that could include wailing, singing, speaking in tongues, shaking and falling motionless on the ground.

The Awakening was a period when utopian communities and new religions were established such as the Latter-Day Saints or Mormons, the Millerites, and the Harmonists, a communal society that settled in Indiana in 1814 just sixty miles from Lincoln’s home in Pigeon Creek. Other Christian sects expanded dramatically such as the Shakers, a highly successful network of communities known for their crafts but also their distinctive forms of worship that included singing and dancing with great intensity.

Less extreme but equally influential were the efforts of ministers like Lyman Beecher of Cincinnati whose children included Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. There is a direct connection between the evangelical efforts of religious leaders and the large number of reform movements that flourished during this time including the abolition of slavery, temperance, prison reform, and women’s suffrage. The leaders of these causes combined their religious passion with political activism. Although Abraham Lincoln never formally joined a church, he came of age morally and politically during this time of social and cultural transformation in American life.

The powerful influence of religious faith is evident throughout The Better Angels. Lincoln's mother, Nancy, is described as "a believer." After her death, Abraham writes to a preacher to come to the Indiana frontier and give her "a proper burial." The Lincoln family prays at mealtime and Lincoln recites the Lord's Prayer with his classmates at school. At home he teaches himself to read the Bible and Pilgrim's Progress. His father is given the "honor" of building a new church and Lincoln is seen there lighting candles. Most important, he attends a service and hears the preacher's sermon that encourages "Christian benevolence" and reminds the congregation that the person who "supports the cause of some, promotes the good of all." These scenes suggest the way Lincoln's childhood experience of religion shaped the man he was to become.

pivotal points in
Lincoln's Life

  • 1815—US victory in the Battle of New Orleans, last battle of the War of 1812
  • 1816—Lincoln family moves to Pigeon Creek, Perry County (later Spencer County—1818) Indiana
  • 1816—Indiana admitted as the 19th state; bans slavery, and promotes education
  • 1817—Abraham Lincoln shoots and kills a wild turkey and vows never to hunt again
  • 1817—James Monroe inaugurated as fifth U.S. president
  • 1818—October 5, Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, dies
  • 1819—Spain cedes Florida to U.S.
  • 1819—December 2,Thomas Lincoln marries Sarah Bush Johnston in Kentucky, returns to Pigeon Creek
  • 1820—Missouri Compromise sets boundary where slavery will be permitted
  • 1820—Thomas Lincoln helps build Pigeon Creek Baptist Church
  • 1822—Denmark Vesey rebellion in Charleston; Vesey and 34 co-conspirators hanged
  • 1823—Monroe Doctrine declares that European colonization of New World will not be permitted
  • 1820-24—Abraham Lincoln attends school at various intervals not more than a year total
  • 1825—John Quincy Adams inaugurated at sixth U.S. president
  • 1825—Erie Canal completed
  • 1828—Sarah Lincoln, sister, dies in childbirth
  • 1828—Abraham Lincoln travels to New Orleans; sees a slave auction for the first time
  • 1828—Baltimore and Ohio Railroad construction begins
  • 1828—Chesapeake and Ohio Canal construction begins
  • 1830—Lincoln family moves to Illinois
  • 1830—Indian Removal Act
  • 1831—Abe Lincoln takes his second trip to New Orleans; resettles in New Salem, Illinois away from his family
  • 1831—Nat Turner slave rebellion in Virginia
  • 1831—William Lloyd Garrison published The Liberator, abolitionist newspaper

screenings