“L’amour qui nous aime…Merci / Love that loves us…Thank you.”
Some incredibly scattered thoughts on master filmmaker Terrence Malick’s newest film:
I rented this last night on iTunes. Malick is my absolute favorite living filmmaker, so I was incredibly excited to see it and couldn’t wait for it to get to a theater near me. My initial reaction was very impressed, but slightly underwhelmed. I had some difficulty connecting to the characters emotionally until the very end of the film, and I wasn’t quite sure why. However, upon reflection I must admit that I haven’t been able to get this film out of my head. I’m convinced that this film is more masterful than a single viewing would indicate. I’ve noticed this with all of Malick’s films. I’ve seen “The Tree of Life” 9 times now and both “The New World” and “The Thin Red Line” 7 times each and every time I watch one of these movies again I still get something new out of them.
The fact that Malick compares loss of faith in God to loss of faith in a relationship is utterly brilliant. Apparently this film is based off an actual romantic relationship Malick experienced during his 20 year disappearance from filmmaking (I think this is true, but some of the details may be wrong). The film feels as if it is an exploration of how he had wronged this woman in the past and now he’s trying to go back and understand what happened through her perspective, and as a result of this, the film feels incredibly personal (much like “The Tree of Life” did). I think this is why Affleck’s character isn’t much of a present force in the film, because the story is shown through his perspective (this becomes more true when we think of his character as a surrogate for Malick himself). Much like “The Tree of Life”, this film feels as if it’s presenting a possible solution to an existential problem, here the problem being what happens when you lose faith and feelings of love in your partner. He presents a possible solution here, one that deals with spirituality and faith on a much grander scale, and is really quite interesting.
Malick is one of the few filmmakers left who in an age where irony and cynicism is celebrated, decides to forgo both of those things in favor of a totally honest and sincere approach to what he believes displayed on the screen. He revels in his faith, questioning it, and affirming it, all in the span of one movie. He isn’t a Christian propagandist as some stupidly suggest, instead he uses his Christian faith to explore his themes and ideas in a very unique, intelligent and wonderful way.
I completely admire how he still remains true to his concept of showing, not telling the story and the ideas. A concept many filmmakers would benefit from doing. There is no exposition or obvious character motivation, or anything that would bog down this beautiful tale of faith and love. There is almost no dialogue here which only testifies to just how strongly Malick is able to tell his stories.
I think this is a truly great film. I know I need to see it again, as I just can’t stop thinking about it. I think Malick realized that when he made “The Tree of Life” he had accomplished his masterpiece (and the greatest film made in my lifetime, but that’s just me talking) and with “To the Wonder” it is evident that he is doing whatever the fuck he wants now. There’s something great about that.
If you haven’t previously seen a Terrence Malick film, then I would not recommend starting with this one. It is Malick at his most extreme, and starting with something else and easing your way into “To the Wonder” would probably lead to a more rewarding experience. If you haven’t enjoyed Malick’s work in the past, then avoid this like the plague. It will drive you mad.
All that being said, I can’t wait to see it again, and to see what Mr. Malick throws at us next…