Saturday, 23 February 2013

REVIEW - TO THE WONDER


There is wonder in every frame of To the Wonder. This is no surprise, and nor is anything about Terrence Malick's latest film - it is quintessential Malick, which means it is abstruse, visually stunning, and extremely good. Watching it, you grasp just how gifted Malick is as both filmmaker and philosopher. He largely dispenses with conventional dialogue, favouring fragmented narration, and intricately detailed mise en scene, edits and soundscapes to intimate the deepest, most fundamental thoughts and emotions of his characters. The suggestion is that we are not lords of this earth, but a part of it. The beauty that can be found in music, in nature, in ourselves, both physically and cerebrally, is evinced here. We are informed by nature, and have the ability to inform it with our own natural gifts. In France, the architecture compliments the scenery; in America, where the people feel a desire to express themselves to the fullest, and through artificial means, it insults it, or destroys it. Marina and her daughter are stifled by this new life, this culture that is born out of a need to create active culture, rather than nurturing itself and allowing it to evolve organically. Neil accepts it, but unknowingly yearns for the spiritual, the intangible, the radiance that the women in his life all seem to possess. It is in Malick's storytelling, in the specific selections of score, the distinctive editing, the marvellous use of sound, the costumes, which turn to a flat, brutal light-swallowing black when their wearers lose their own internal light, and the usual exquisite photography, that he harbours his emotional intellect, and he coaxes greater meaning out of the human beings in his story than words - just another construct - could ever achieve. To see To the Wonder and to embrace it as Malick embraces us, like the melancholy priest played here by Javier Bardem, is to experience cinema at its most transcendent and sublime.