Tuesday, 3 September 2013

To the Wonder

Okay, after a an incredibly chaotic summer, where I watched only a handful of films (not counting the eight films I saw on my flights to and from Europe, which I will be reviewing later this week), I am back, with at least seven films on my schedule for the next two weeks. In the meantime, here's a review I wrote almost a month ago:

Another gorgeous profound work of cinematic poetry from Terrence Malick, To the Wonder was generally panned by the critics. I have no idea why. Sure, this isn’t up to The Tree of Life standards, but it’s still eons ahead of most of what passes for filmmaking these days. I missed seeing it at the cinema, if it even made it to Winnipeg, which is a shame.

To the Wonder primarily concerns the love between Neil and Marina. Neil (Ben Affleck)is an American; Marina (Olga Kurylenko) is French (yes, Linklater’s Before series definitely springs to mind, especially when we discover that To the Wonder is about life and love, though, unlike the Before films, it has almost no conversation). Neil and Marina fall in love in Paris (what Neil is doing there, we never discover). Marina has a daughter (Tatiana) from a previous relationship. Neil offers to take them both back to Oklahoma, where he has a large new house on the outskirts of a small town. At first they are delighted, but soon there are obvious signs of discontent. 

When Marina’s visa expires, she and Tatiana move back to Paris. Meanwhile, Jane (Rachel McAdams), Neil’s old flame, shows up in Neil’s life. In the background, we encounter a Spanish priest (Father Quintana, played by Javier Bardem), whose lonely days are filled with visiting the poor, the sick and those in prison. He spends his moments in the film in prayer, trying to recover a dwindling faith. 

All of the above, and much more, is conveyed with almost no dialogue and with only brief scenes that provide poetic glimpses into these four lives, lives filled with joy and wonder but also with pain, loneliness, sadness and even despair. This is, after all, a pure Malick film, which is a very good thing indeed, though many won’t get it. Does Neil represent Malick at one stage in his life? Perhaps. It would explain why Neil’s character is the least-developed, as if he is both central and in the background the whole time.

As usual for a Malick film, the cinematography is as beautiful as any you will ever see, while the score is haunting and evocative, like the film itself. The acting is generally excellent (Affleck barely says a word, which is not a bad thing). 

To the Wonder is a thoughtful spiritual meditation that gets a very solid ***+. My mug is up.

1 comment:

  1. Watched this on your recommendation but sorry Vic I am ones of the ones who just don't get it, maybe I am too westernized. It is beautiful and the music is great but there is too much beauty in misery for my liking. Malick loves the women's beauty, it is obvious but that wears thin after the first 30 minutes. Thanks for expanding our film watching