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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Attending the official screening at the 'Sala Grande' at the Venice
film festival. The applause for the attending actors finally stops and
I find myself waiting with some excitement for a film created by one of
the most praised directors of the moment, lining up some great names
like Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem and Olga Kurylenko. I
was also expecting another great actress to appear on the screen,
Rachel Weisz. I would soon find out that she was being cut out, and
some more were. It is not the first time this happens. Malick has a
notable history of cutting actors out of his films, which is of course
his good right.
After a typical romantic scene in Paris, more resembling a travel advert then anything else, I start to get nervous. Why? Because the romantic blah-blah doesn't seem to stop. An overhead voice speaking french doesn't make a movie artistic. Loosely filmed scenes in corn fields are not per definition beautiful.
Kurylenko, in the role of Marina, comes to the hometown of Neil (Affleck), some nowhere ville in Oklahoma where they continue their fairytale romance. Kurylenko is constantly doing little dances and pirouettes on the street, or where-ever she is located. Giggling, singing, hopping on the bed, and looking over her shoulder while laughing towards the camera. That kind of sums it up, since Affleck hardly speaks a word. He is just the typical guy and she is just the typical so called-artistic-french-loving-and-beautiful girl. After she and her daughter return to Paris, he has a identical affair with his hometown sweetheart (McAdams), as if super attractive women are just available everywhere. Then Kurylenko returns, because she needs a Greencard. Explained in just one very meaningful phrase "Forgive me" they have a fight. Also very typical (but yes, finally some action!). Of course some kind of vase is shattered and its all tears and gestures.
Then suddenly Javier Bardem appears as a priest seeking spiritual fulfillment in a church. These scenes seem detached from the rest of the story, although the same church is visited by other characters. Some cleaning personnel and people who are 'worn down by life' are also given some screen time, placed randomly into the movie (in high contrast to the blazing beauty of the main characters).
The religious undertone becomes stronger and stronger towards the end of the movie, making it all too clear that love and religion are one and the same. And that all of the Hallmark-inspired beauty seen before must be powered by the divine.
Enforcing religion onto an audience reminds me of brainwashing, and it is something I cannot appreciate. Showing religion in a movie is no problem; since it is a part of most people's lives, but trying to emotionally convey someone to a certain religion, doesn't matter which one, should be a priest's job not a film director's.
I must say I admire the wish to look upon cinema in new ways, and I can see very clearly what the idea was for making this movie: Malick tries to tell a story by not showing the key moments, conversations or explanations: he shows the in-between. The silent moments, 'life'.
This is how the movie fails: there doesn't seem to anything in-between. The emotions seem empty, love seems superficial, religion is fake.
The thing is, I applaud to art cinema, I am very much fond of romantic stories, I love it when a filmmaker pays attention to cinematography. Maybe all of this made me more disappointed in "To The Wonder" then anyone else.
After it was finished some applause but also loud booing was heard from the audience. I sure wasn't the only one frustrated and appalled by this movie.
I have always wondered about people who give one star reviews. Is it
for the extra attention? Is it a joke? Can a movie really deserve one
Well finally I have seen a movie which simply does not permit me to give it any more than one star. A movie that has prompted me to create an IMDb account and write this review so that other cinema goers do not have to share the mind numbing agony of my experience.
My woes stem from the fact that "To the Wonder" seems to be an experiment into expressing nothing but the emotions of love and loss. Initially this seems a noble cause, but it comes at the expense of plot, dialogue and even character development. So if you sit through the first 30 minutes thinking "I wonder if anything is going to happen?", sadly the answer is "no".
There seems to be the assumption that an audience can share in the on screen emotion without ever being given access to the motivations and events which led to them. It is like watching The English Patient and trying to understand Ralph Fiennes' emotional turmoil without being shown the flashbacks of his life before hospital. So without any narrative or dialogue, the poor actors are left trying to convey their emotions by looking gloomy (as Ben Affleck does for the entire movie) or by performing pirouettes and looking wistfully into glinting autumn sunshine (for Olga Kurylenko).
If you are a huge fan of the back of Ben Affleck's head, you'll love this movie. For me the only enjoyment was in the irony that a film about emotion should be so emotionally uninvolving. That and the joy of seeing the end credits finally roll, upon which I punched the air and shouted "Yes!" This is something I have never felt the need to do before in a cinema, and it certainly surprised my wife (who looked mortified). I didn't care. This film marked a new found level of tedium, so extreme that it should probably be reserved for Guantanamo Bay. One star tedium? You bet.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a great movie ..... FOR SELLING TVS!!! I cannot find any other
good use for this excuse of a movie.
I'm not kidding, in a point of the film, they run out of landscapes footages and they throw some TURTLES at us! SERIOUSLY?!?! I mean, what does the poor turtle has to do with anything? I just hope the turtle's payment was at least as big as Ben's, because they get about the same number of lines. Or should I say whispers.
That's another thing in this movie that is incredibly annoying: there are no dialogues! Only some random whisperings.
The Tree of Life was bad, but To the Wonder takes it to a whole new level of badness!
Summary: "I love you." (silence) "Let's get married." (more silence) "I need a visa." (Guess what? More silence) Then she leaves. There is also a random priest going through some middle age crisis.
And they make it goes for 2 hours by adding a bunch of Nat Geo footages.
Just a final comment: PLEASE, IF YOU DIDN'T GET THE MOVIE, IT DOES NOT MEAN IT IS A GOOD OR A CULT MOVIE! I don't know how anyone can give this movie a 10. It's like "I've no idea what the movie was about, so it must have been good." or "if I say I didn't get it, people will think I dumb."
And I don't respect who give it a 5 by saying "the story deserves a 0, but it is so pretty that I will give it a 5". They are saying that no matter what you throw at then, if it is mixed with some 'LED TVs add material', it deserves at least 5.
Some people say that film is like a language, but that is not exactly
right, it is like language itself, and just as there are different
languages, there are different cinemas. It seems to me that, in his
last two films, Terrence Malick has been creating a very special type
of cinema, that had hitherto existed only in an embryonic form. While
most films have maybe 50-100 scenes, replete with dialogue and action,
Malick's new cinema (MNC) has over twice that number of scenes, but
they are fragmentary and consist of only the essence of meaning that
was in a scene that would normally have been much longer. This can be
sometimes several minutes or only a couple of brief shots.
Last evening I drove the 25 miles to see the early performance of 'To the Wonder'. I did that with the intention of returning to write this review while the film was still fresh in my mind. But after it I was so drained that I couldn't write a summary, let alone a review. At the current (late) stage in my life, what interests me most about the cinema is its limits. How far can the cinema go, and what exactly is a film?
Given the above, Terrence Malick is evidently the man for me, and I am convinced that 'The Tree of Life' is among the five greatest works of this greatest of the arts. So, after a masterpiece 30 years in the gestation and three + in the creation, how would Malick fare with a film relatively thrown together in a year or so?
On the face of it, this is a story of the relationship which starts in Paris between an American (environmentalist?), Neil, and an otherworldly French woman (Marina). When they return to mid-west America, Marina suffers from a sense of dislocation made greater when he daughter decides to go and live with her father in France.
But Malick seems much less interested in the *events* which he depicts than in expressing the feelings of the characters. Just the same way that 'The Tree of Life' was an *impression* of childhood, rather than the story of a childhood, 'To the Wonder' is an impression of a love affair, rather than its story. This is cinema infused in every shot with Heidegger's *dasein*. The logic of Malick's cinema is to *perfectly* catch the moment, and in doing so extract the truth of the experience. Hence, for Malick, a film story, is simply an assembly of 'essences'. These essences stay in the mind to thrill and haunt us.
There have been other examples of great filmmakers who have made films exploring the cinema's intimate connection with mental processes - Resnais and Bunuel come immediately to mind. But with Malick, it seems, the cinema's similarity to the mental processes of memory, dream and conjecture, have ignited a wildfire of creativity that has advanced the film art at a greater pace than has occurred since the sixties.
Here I have to admit to being only at the beginning of being able to appreciate what seems to be dizzying complexities in the film. My French is not up to totally understanding much of Marina's dialogue which, as I am in France, was not translated in the subtitles, so I am sure I have missed an entire dimension of the film. But Olga Kurylenko's performance is so magnificent, that this 'comprehension gap' didn't seem a problem.
Then there is the obvious question of the film's theme. Love, the very 'different' nature of women, dislocation in the physical, emotional and cultural senses - these are all up there writ large. But they are mixed with a nagging worry that, to return to my earlier concern, Malick has stretched the cinema to its limits, but sometimes, maybe beyond them. I do not think of myself as stupid, but I found great difficulty in grasping the relevance of certain shots or scenes. I rest convinced, however that this is another example of a film that it is necessary to watch dozens of times to find all of the poetic and meaningful connections.
I have great sympathy with those who go to the cinema wanting to be told a great story in the clearest manner possible. That is honourable and reasonable, but it is not the only experience that the cinema, this great and wonderful art of the cinema, can give. And it is certainly NOT the case that films that don't take the more prosaic approach are pretentious, meaningless or boring. 'To the Wonder' is to popular cinema what lyric poetry is to airport novels. So, if that is all you are looking for, it is best to avoid Malick's film.
But for those of us who know that beyond the sky is the limit for great cinema, Malick and MNC is the route to the stars, and 'To the Wonder' is a step, if a somewhat halting one, along that route.
TO THE WONDER is the new film from master writer/director Terrence
Malick. The story begins with Ben Affleck's character, Neil, in Paris
where he falls in-love with a single mother named Marina, played by the
beautiful Olga Kurylenko. Neil brings his new love and her daughter,
Tatiana, back home with him to the United States. When Marina's visa
expires and Affleck's character is reluctant to marry her, Marina and
her daughter return to Paris. Neil begins spending his time with a
childhood friend, Jane, played by Rachel McAdams. However Jane is a
woman of great faith, a faith that Neil does not share. Back in Paris,
Tatiana leaves to go live with her father and Marina becomes depressed,
longing to return to the US to try to work things out with Neil. It is
at this point that the story falls apart.
It's impossible not to compare TO THE WONDER to THE TREE OF LIFE simply because the two films are shot in the exact same style. Beautiful shots and gorgeous cinematography accompanied by a classical score and poetic voice-overs from the characters. The Tree of Life was and is not only a masterpiece, but one of the greatest films to ever be made. I thought maybe To The Wonder was a little too soon for another Malick epic but I do not believe that is the case as far as why this film fails.
The two characters I felt for and wanted to see more of was Javier Bardem's Father Quintana and Rachel McAdams' Jane. Here we have a priest struggling in his relationship with God and a woman who has suffered through the grief and loss of a child, yet has found a way to continue living in harmony with great faith. These highly interesting characters are under-used as the film focuses more on Neil and Marina, who by the end of the film, we begin to hate.
The actors do not help the film tell it's story, it almost seems like they walked on-set without a script and improvised their parts. In Tree Of Life we had Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn and Brad Pitt giving the performances of a lifetime, not through dialogue, but simply through facial expression, movement and body language. There wasn't a need for scenes of dialogue, the story was understood. With To The Wonder, I was craving a scene of dialogue towards the end. I didn't want to believe Affleck and Kurylenko's characters were as shallow and selfish as they seemed, I wanted and felt I deserved to know more about them and why they continued to struggle. Why are they so frustrated and angry?
No matter how abstract or convoluted a film is, I've never had an issue coming to some sort of an understanding and usually, the more a film leaves open for me to interpret myself, the more I respect the film. However, To The Wonder leaves us with two characters we no longer have any reason to care for and the film gives us no way to understand or relate to them in the end.
...wrote french author Victor Hugo and Terrence Malick's "To the
Wonder" seems at times to agree and at times wanting disprove that
quote. As ancient as the mistake of falling in love appears to be, as
unavoidable and necessary it is. In his impressionistic style which
will enrapture some and drive most insane, this latest piece of work by
one of America's most unusual filmmakers continues his exploration of
emotional truths, identity, intimacy and individual freedom which leads
us into ever changing emotional states.
Without a clear structure or narrative but accompanied by breathtaking images, a very expressive music and ambient soundtrack and extremely subtle performances, are we drawn into the lives of a business man (Ben Affleck), a Russian expatriate (Olga Kurylenko), the daughter of a farm owner (Rache McAdams) and the priest of a small town in Oklahoma (Javier Bardem). Their thoughts and struggles on love, commitment, God and marriage along with their the fights and atonement are presented in fractured moments that reveal the various elements of human contradiction which constantly tear us in two directions at the same time. We want freedom and comfort, love and domesticity, desire and stability. The compromise lies in accepting which side of us is the one that defines us the most and if we can live, at least partly, with the lack of the other, in order to achieve as Bardem's Father Quintana puts it:"The love that never changes."
Amidst this metaphysical and highly personal journey Malick gives us not only a sense of the "wonder of love" but also celebrates our sense of wonder in general. Our ability to be overwhelmed by our emotions for another person, nature or even God.
"To the Wonder" is a film about faiths in many shapes and strives for that forgiveness that elates our disappointments and resentments in order to finally love in a state of personal liberty and acceptance.
A movie for a few with a theme for everybody.
I kept passing by this movie "On Demand" and finally gave it my $6.99 (sigh). I should have listened to my gut. I am not a film critic. I am a film lover and I enjoy all genres of films. I do not like to write reviews but I could not pass by without saying something about this dreadful movie. I liked Tree of Life. That movie is not this movie and comes nowhere near it. Tree of Life made me "think" and I watched it twice in one weekend. To the Wonder had me turning it off at 1:25 but wanting to turn it off after 20 minutes. Ben doesn't say more than a few lines and get your hearing aids out because you can barely hear him. Same goes for the other characters in this movie, they whispher. As if the viewer isn't already trying to piece some kind of story together the director goes further and makes what little lines there are in this worthless piece of celluloid uninteresting and completely void of detail! Oh and don't think I'm not into art, imagery, impression etc, Oh I am, but this didn't cut it, they should have left it all on the cutting floor. If you are going to make this special type of film you best do it quite well or don't bother. I didn't care about anybody in this film. Two beautiful women twirling in fields, in curtains, in their hair....nauseating!!! You see Ben's head or half his body and him touching the ladies on their back or pulling his hand away. You see empty stairwells, empty rooms (good lord buy some furniture already). You see a little girl running through a supermarket and her line, "it's so clean"....REALLY, wow? This movie was horrendous. I honestly can't believe somebody made money off this junk. You can't make out what they say and when they do say something it's boring. This movie is truly awful and damn near put me into a coma. I can handle bad movies (Mommy Dearest was bad, so bad I loved it) and I don't ever turn a movie off that I paid 6.99 to view at home. That should tell you something. PASS THIS ONE!
Like other reviewers, I am not opposed to alternative ways of telling a
story. Less dialog, more imagery and more music is fine. But you still
have to fill in some details. This one doesn't.
Why do reviewers keep saying that the woman was a Russian expatriate in Paris? Because the actress is Ukranian? I didn't catch any dialog explaining that she was anything other than French. Why do they keep saying that the second part of the movie was in Bartlesville, Oklahoma? I never heard any mention of the state or the town. I understand that it was filmed there, but the movie didn't tell me anything about it.
What the hell was the guy doing in Paris? What is wrong with the woman? She seems a little bit retarded. She keeps twirling around in circles like she is not fully engaged in the reality of life. Is it because she is a bohemian, Parisian existentialist poet, or just immature, or what? What does the guy do for a living? He seems to take samples of pond water and weeds. Is he doing the geological survey for a building project? There are no normal conversations in this film. Much of it is whispered in French, with subtitles about the mystery of love and loneliness. After the pretentious and petulant non-French, French woman leaves the film for a bit, Rachel Adams emerges with no makeup. Then she too begins whispering about the nature of love and loss.
Javier Bardem has a compelling screen presence in most of his work and in this one he looks troubled and pensive. I would have loved to find out more about this character's life. A priest in a small town might feel very lonely.
I do understand that the Director and Writer are trying to show lonely, lost souls and make some statement about how we are all looking to connect to something... be it a city, a romance, God, or a poetic version of life. But I can't watch that for 90 minutes without going stark raving mad.
Yes, the cinematography was nice. I liked that the annoying French girl actually said that she was sick of Paris. Film makers love to portray Paris as the Garden of Eden, but it is not a coastal city. It gets gloomy and cold, and there are loads of angry ethnics on fixed incomes.
I actually think the semi-porn "Nine Songs" does a bit better job of showing the initial obsession of a love affair and the ugly decline when boredom and routine set in with immature, shallow people.
Terrence malick, director behind last years most discussed picture,
'The Tree of Life', has snuck his new film 'to the wonder' into the
venice film festival. I came here to see The Master, but was also
interested in Malicks new film. i was hesitant to get excited for it
though. Malick is widely regarded as a control freak as a director,
meditating for years, and releasing his films incredibly infrequently.
i felt that it was way too early between drinks for malick to release
another work. after such a personal film like TTOF, i thought this
might be more of a minor work, like how the Coen brothers did No
Country and followed up with the minimalistic screw-ball comedy 'burn
after reading'. How unprepared and wrong i was.
To The Wonder is a magnificent film. The tree of life was a towering achievement IMHO, and this film doesn't fall short by much in terms of scope, ambition and achievement. by any standards its a great film. its a strong addition to malick's small yet vital body of work. The acting is very good, but like TTOF, takes a a bit of a back seat for malick to do his thing. Affleck and McAdams a very good, as are bardem and kurylenko. i don't want to give away to many plot specifics or character details. most of that is in the lengthy plot synopsis released online yesterday anyway. it is very dream-like, and has a lack of dialogue like TTOF. it tells most of its story through imagery, music and how characters physically act towards each other. i never liked affleck as an actor before this. he's good here, but i wouldn't have minded someone else in the role.
About what affleck said yesterday. that to the wonder makes TTOF look like transformers. that statement is so exaggerated and pretty much wrong. if anything, TTOF is still more experimental than TO THE WONDER. that doesn't detract from the huge ambition of this film though. I'm so excited to see malick working quicker now. it really is a dream to have malick films in 3 successive years. next year is knight of cups. couldn't be more excited. like TTOF, this film will richly reward repeat viewing, but is a little more accessible than TTOF. people who had problems with the whole universe and dinosaurs thing in TTOF wont have to worry here. although ambitious, it is a little more grounded, and will be more palatable to a bigger audience. thats not to say that the mainstream will embrace this film, because they wont. its a malick film through and through, and i couldn't be more grateful for that.
Before i saw this, the race for my favourite film of the year had really boiled down to THE MASTER (which was great, but still processing) and BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. Malick's film has opened up the field. 5/5
Greetings again from the darkness. Director Terrence Malick makes films
that typically fall into the "love it or hate it" genre. He has a very
loyal group of fans (of which I am one) who appreciate the unique
mental and emotional ride that his projects provide. To say that his
films are not accessible is understandable. His objective is to
challenge you to access your own beliefs and thoughts, rather than the
characters in his movies ... they are simply the tools he uses.
Less than two years ago, I was struggling to put thoughts into words after watching Malick's The Tree of Life. Now, in record time for him, he releases another film that is even more impressionistic ... actually abstract is not too strong a description. The usual Malick elements are present - nature, uncomfortable relationships, minimal dialogue, breathtaking photography, and powerful music. Where The Tree of Life focused on Creation and Family, this latest takes on Love and Faith.
Water imagery is a frequent key as we see the personal relationship mimic the changing of the seasons. Neil (Ben Affleck), an American visiting Paris, meets and falls for Marina (Olga Kurylenko), a free-spirited local filled with light and energy. Their love affair moves to the stunning Mont Saint-Michel before settling in the drab plains of Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
It's not surprising that the relationship suffers as the newness wears thin. The interesting part is how Malick presents it. We mostly witness bits and pieces ... he shows us moments, not events. We easily see that Neil's aloofness and sullen looks don't jibe with Marina's effervescence. When she returns to Paris, Neil easily falls in with an old flame played by Rachel McAdams. When she later accuses him of making what they had "nothing", we all understand what she means ... and why.
While Neil is proving what a lost soul he is, we also meet Father Quintana (Javier Bardem). He has lost the light of his faith and is in full crisis mode, even as he attempts to console and guide Marina. There is no secret that much of this film is autobiographical and that Malick is working through wounds he still carries these many years later. As a movie-goer, there is little to be gained from Alleck's disconnected character or from Kurylenko dancing in the rain. The real prize is awakening the thoughts and feelings many of us probably buried over the years to hide emotional pain. Malick seems to be saying that it's OK to acknowledge your foundation, regardless of your ability to succeed in a socially acceptable manner.
If you prefer not to dig so deep emotionally, this is a beautiful film to look at - thanks to Director of Photograpy Emmanuel Lubezki (a frequent Malick collaborator), and listen to - a blended soundtrack with many notable pieces from various composers. While this will be remembered as Roger Ebert's final movie review (he liked it very much), it will likely have very little appeal to the average movie watcher - and I'm confident that Terrence Malick is fine with that.
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