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Empire Admin -> To The Wonder (22/2/2013 6:28:19 PM)

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R W -> To the Wonder (22/2/2013 6:28:19 PM)

A couple of years ago, the release of The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick’s fifth and most ambitious film which could simply be identified a 50’s-set family drama but it also delves into the birth of creation whilst having all the Malick credentials such as whispered narration, experimental narrative and plants blown by the wind. This film had polarised both critics and audiences, and if you’re not part of the Terrence Malick fandom, then To the Wonder will not be your cup of tea.

As Neil (Ben Affleck) moves to Oklahoma with his European lover Marina (Olga Kurylenko) and her daughter (Titiana Chiline), their relationship begins fall apart, so Neil reconnects with old childhood friend Jane (Rachel McAdams). Meanwhile, Marina’s US priest Father Quintana (Javier Bardem) suffers a crisis of faith.

While The Tree of Life was sprawling and kind of went all over the place with dinosaurs, strange Lynchian imagery (Jessica Chastain floating on invisible puppet strings) and Sean Penn walking from one location to another, To the Wonder, in comparison, is more linear and intimate as the narrative is solely focusing on Neil (played by an almost-non-verbal Affleck) and his loved ones, along with the subplot of Javier Bardem’s good Father Quintana’s struggle with faith, which although contributes to the flawed relationship between Neil and Marina, the ideas of the priest witnessing and questioning a godless universe don’t quite come full circle.

When it comes to Malick’s films, the actors don’t say a lot although the Calvin Klein-sounded narration as always is the true audio of his films, this time round mostly French. That said, Olga Kurylenko is utterly delightful as Marina whose presence alone is wonderful, while Emmanuel Lubezki’s stunning cinematography is one of the stars of the film as Oklahoma hasn’t looked more beautiful.

While not as ambitious and perhaps challenging as The Tree of Life, To the Wonder is more easy-going as the sole focus on the lovers’ intimacy is the main strength of Malick’s touching story of love.




ElephantBoy -> RE: frustrating, tender, and emotionally earnest to a fault (26/2/2013 11:58:29 PM)

As flat as a Malick film can get.

To pick up on some of the themes rised in RW's more postive review, it is one thing to present a film as a moody, documentary piece, with more relance on voice over, it is quite another to give the viewer almost no story or character devolpment over the course of the film, and unlike Tree of Life this doesn't at least have bold themes. Also said voice over, was over used and just over telegraphed the point and unlike you I found said french girl very annoying.[;)]

Things startied to heat up in the middle, with the introduction of the Rachel McAdams character, those scenes just had more energy and felt more surreal, meaning my interest peaked, but sadly that all came to nothing, because like the Bardem priest character that strend was also given far too little time.

Visually it is one of the best films you see all year and the score was impressive also, but thats about it.

4/10




Filmfan 2 -> RE: frustrating, tender, and emotionally earnest to a fault (1/3/2013 4:32:55 PM)

One can only assume that Malick has a massive soft spot for ballet, or performance art, as his recent output has been moving very much in that direction.

I saw this yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As with a lot of Malick's movies, you either love them or hate them. His past two efforts have been quite sublime in places; indeed, the sequence in the movie where Neil and Jane spend time together that is accompanied by 'Cantus Arcticus, Op. 61, ‘Concerto for Birds and Orchestra’: III. Joutsenet Muuttavat (Swans Migrating)', is probably one of the most rapturous sequences that I've in the cinema for quite some time.

I'd agree with R W in that Javier Bardem's Father Quintana is left at a bit of a loose end come the end of the movie, but perhaps that's fitting given his character's struggle with his faith. Tree of Life made me fall in love with Jessica Chastain and Malick's done it again for me with Olga Kurylenko, who has a fantastically engaging screen presence. Special mention should be made to Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography, which is spectacular throughout.

Highly enjoyable.




ElephantBoy -> RE: frustrating, tender, and emotionally earnest to a fault (2/3/2013 2:00:35 PM)


quote:

ORIGINAL: Filmfan 2

One can only assume that Malick has a massive soft spot for ballet, or performance art, as his recent output has been moving very much in that direction.

I saw this yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As with a lot of Malick's movies, you either love them or hate them. His past two efforts have been quite sublime in places; indeed, the sequence in the movie where Neil and Jane spend time together that is accompanied by 'Cantus Arcticus, Op. 61, ‘Concerto for Birds and Orchestra’: III. Joutsenet Muuttavat (Swans Migrating)', is probably one of the most rapturous sequences that I've in the cinema for quite some time.
I'd agree with R W in that Javier Bardem's Father Quintana is left at a bit of a loose end come the end of the movie, but perhaps that's fitting given his character's struggle with his faith. Tree of Life made me fall in love with Jessica Chastain and Malick's done it again for me with Olga Kurylenko, who has a fantastically engaging screen presence. Special mention should be made to Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography, which is spectacular throughout.

Highly enjoyable.

I agree with this, and that was the best scetion for me, but they did little after that.

Think I will return to this as I just find it hard to believe that Malick film was this dull.




Qwerty Norris -> RE: frustrating, tender, and emotionally earnest to a fault (2/3/2013 2:34:52 PM)

Terrence's most prolific streak has predicated the weakest entry in his career to date. There's a clear narrative regarding the immigrant experience in a foreign land and how that adopted homeland reaffirms or questions the pursuit of of love, faith or belonging. Yet this is compromised by an awkward 30 minute segment involving Affleck & McAdams which gives the film less focus (even by Malick's often meandering style) and far less ambiguity than Affleck's character should be. In a work where dialogue is also fairly minimal, it's a pity the one who does get a bit of a spiel (Olga's Italian mate) ends up being extremely irritating and hypocritical. Perhaps that hypocrisy's the point, but it annoyed more than anything else. Still a visual and lyrical treat, but the likes of Days of Heaven did a lot more in far less time.

3/5




demoncleaner -> RE: To The Wonder (6/3/2013 10:38:46 PM)

To Terrence Malick everything is elliptical - time, the movement of the planets, the kinetic elegance of a fairground ride or the rise and fall of an industrial rotary pump. Oh and people, people are elliptical most of all. This is a film where people largely emote by pirouetting when happy, whilst in a mood, they’ll lope around in circles staring at their feet. So obvious is this in To The Wonder that you expect a concerned bystander to maybe come up and interject with a gentle warning “listen love, if you emote any more you’re liable to get hit by a fucking car”. In the first dizzying rushes of the film Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko convey a romance largely reminiscent of two apes picking nits out of one another. If you walked in late to this frenetic quest between a couple to catch a quick public grope you might be forgiven for thinking you’d arrived at Steve McQueen’s latest film on frottage. These are the immediate features of To The Wonder and it would be a difficult oeuvre to accept from anyone other than the chap who made The Tree of Life. I found Malick’s last film both sufficiently majestic and perplexing to cite it an achievement but it’s also an invaluable bedding in for this film. If Wonder had been Malick’s next film after The Thin Red Line for instance, well I dare say I’d go buck fucking mental at this, but post-Tree it really is difficult to empathise with an audience member who was not prepared in some way for what they were letting themselves in for. For this reason I was able to “go with” this film to a large extent, to withstand the notable on-those-nose introspection, and the all too prevalent opportunities for parody and piss-take.

And so on balance I liked To The Wonder. More than that, I actually loved the first hour, which seemed to lull me into a kind of dental gas fugue state of dreamy visuals, a constant diaphanous movement of the image that achieved a “just right” compromise between a feeling of flying and car sickness. The entire film is obviously a mood piece but the moods in the first part of the film were I think far more palatable than they were in the second. The early stages bore little nostalgia pulses for me which is what I got most of all from Tree of Life, growing up on crummy housing estates that were as beautiful as anything on a summer’s evening, an outgoing community sitting on their lawns, and also a sense of home-sickness that can pervade at any random time in a person's life. These were the broad, universal moods I felt some access to and it all tripped along quite pleasantly because you didn’t have to engage with it on a semantic level. Because if you had to have a conscious interpretation of what was going on onscreen it might irritate. Which is kind of what I felt happened as it progressed.

It’s with the arrival of Rachel McAdams that this happened and the spell was kind of broken for me. And that’s nothing to with Rachel McAdams, it’s just the arrival of a new character makes you ask “what’s her deal?” and “do I want her to be happy or do I want Olga Kurylenko to be happy, and are they mutually exclusive?”. It’s small, natural questions like these that lessen the universality of Wonder’s benign mood swings, makes it less about broad circumstance and more about the fickleness of small minded characters, and the thing about fickleness is that’s it’s a difficult thing to watch passively and not be slightly irritated by. Irritation comes into even sharper relief when Kurylenko’s character is influenced by an annoying free-spirit girlfriend and from then on in the domestic situation between the two main characters is entirely predicated on simple brattishness. The only thing that upholds the broad and innate theme of “human-ness” is Javier Bardem’s priest, who, as a character whose day job it is to dialogue with God his inner voice is the only one in recent Malick that actually succeeds without overtly sounding like a Calvin Klein ad. The later passages of his visits with the infirm were rightly affecting and it seemed to come at the right time to pull this modest enterprise back on an affirming track.

3/5





demoncleaner -> RE: frustrating, tender, and emotionally earnest to a fault (6/3/2013 10:47:48 PM)


quote:

ORIGINAL: Qwerty Norris

Terrence's most prolific streak has predicated the weakest entry in his career to date. There's a clear narrative regarding the immigrant experience in a foreign land and how that adopted homeland reaffirms or questions the pursuit of of love, faith or belonging. Yet this is compromised by an awkward 30 minute segment involving Affleck & McAdams which gives the film less focus (even by Malick's often meandering style) and far less ambiguity than Affleck's character should be. In a work where dialogue is also fairly minimal, it's a pity the one who does get a bit of a spiel (Olga's Italian mate) ends up being extremely irritating and hypocritical. Perhaps that hypocrisy's the point, but it annoyed more than anything else. Still a visual and lyrical treat, but the likes of Days of Heaven did a lot more in far less time.

3/5


The planets have aligned Qwerty! We appear to be in agreement, right down to the individual bits we thought worked and ones that didn't. What's next? Cats and dogs living with each other, the whole world's couped!




Itsaboy -> The only wonder is how I sat through it (16/3/2013 10:07:20 AM)

Words cannot express how much I hated this film. As I watched I became more and more incensed by Malik's empty posturing, tedious pseudo-spiritual babble, undeveloped charactersand total disregard for the audience. This tendency has, of course, been growing over his last four films at least and now reaches its full flowering. If I see one more charater walking moodily through high grass, dancing joyously down supermarket aisle or draping themselves in net curtains, I shall scream. Sure, the film looks great (as always with Malik) but this does not in itself make for a great or even watchable film. I spoke to several people as they left the cinema and this seemed to be a unanimous view. No more Malik for me, ever.




Coyleone -> RE: The only wonder is how I sat through it (26/3/2013 11:49:07 PM)

I'm a huge Malick fan, and this is another brilliant work from him imo. I found it to be a totally realistic, unsentimental take on relationships, breakups and love. It explores similar themes that he looked at in Days Of Heaven, but mixes that with elements from his other films. As always with Malick, Nature is something that he focuses on, and I love his depiction of the female characters in his films as being a part of it, this is no different. He films his actresses like goddesses, and in this case the amazing specimens that they are. He presents his characters like forces of nature or elements, it adds this aura of mystique to the film that was present in Tree Of Life and I loved it there and I loved it here too. Obviously it's Malick so the film looks completely stunning in every frame. Shots of nature, tree's, water and light look amazing but also represent various parts of the characters personality's and feelings.

Another thing I loved about this was that every action from the character's meant something and symbolized something to come for them. For example in the first scenes with the couple at their peak and in love, she is always in complete control. He follows her as she weaves between trees, it almost feels like a dance sequence sometimes, and there always feels like there's a distance between them that she is purposefully creating. As for the actual story, it's simple but effective. It's love that turns into annoyance that turns into genuine dislike, but despite the surreal nature of the way it's told (barely any dialogue, and when it is it's mostly narration, and the fact that the actor's movements and actions do most of the talking), it's a very realistic portrayal of love and loss. As for the actors, Olga Kurylenko is brilliant in the female lead, playing a woman who falls out of love so convincingly. It's not because of one specific moment, it's just the passing of time that does it to her and it's so well played. Affleck isn't the best actor, but he's absolutely fine here. All he's required to do is generate chemistry between himself and the female leads and he definitely does that.

There are some things that didn't quite do it for me though. Those are Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem's characters. While they're really well acted, I didn't feel they added much to the overall story. Malick also interjects some religious themes in here, questions of faith and of a higher power are brought up especially in the third act, and while it worked in Tree Of Life I thought it was kind of out of place in this film. Aside from those problems, I loved it. A great portrayal of a relationship done in Malick's signature style that adds a lot more subtle depth to everything. I thought it was really effective and it's my film of the year so far. It won't make any new Malick fans, but for people that are already, it won't disappoint.

8.5/10




ElephantBoy -> RE: The only wonder is how I sat through it (27/3/2013 3:23:03 PM)


quote:

ORIGINAL: Itsaboy

Words cannot express how much I hated this film. As I watched I became more and more incensed by Malik's empty posturing, tedious pseudo-spiritual babble, undeveloped charactersand total disregard for the audience. This tendency has, of course, been growing over his last four films at least and now reaches its full flowering. If I see one more charater walking moodily through high grass, dancing joyously down supermarket aisle or draping themselves in net curtains, I shall scream. Sure, the film looks great (as always with Malik) but this does not in itself make for a great or even watchable film. I spoke to several people as they left the cinema and this seemed to be a unanimous view. No more Malik for me, ever.


While I agree with much of what you said, the last part seems unfair.

This is his first bad film for me, both Tree of Life and The new World had flaws, but were still mostly good, and before that he had a flawless record.

It will take two or three more like this before one before I consider turning my back on his films.




Qwerty Norris -> RE: frustrating, tender, and emotionally earnest to a fault (28/3/2013 8:45:45 AM)

quote:

ORIGINAL: demoncleaner


quote:

ORIGINAL: Qwerty Norris

Terrence's most prolific streak has predicated the weakest entry in his career to date. There's a clear narrative regarding the immigrant experience in a foreign land and how that adopted homeland reaffirms or questions the pursuit of of love, faith or belonging. Yet this is compromised by an awkward 30 minute segment involving Affleck & McAdams which gives the film less focus (even by Malick's often meandering style) and far less ambiguity than Affleck's character should be. In a work where dialogue is also fairly minimal, it's a pity the one who does get a bit of a spiel (Olga's Italian mate) ends up being extremely irritating and hypocritical. Perhaps that hypocrisy's the point, but it annoyed more than anything else. Still a visual and lyrical treat, but the likes of Days of Heaven did a lot more in far less time.

3/5


The planets have aligned Qwerty! We appear to be in agreement, right down to the individual bits we thought worked and ones that didn't. What's next? Cats and dogs living with each other, the whole world's couped!



Clearly human sacrifice & mass hysteria! [:D]




UTB -> RE: frustrating, tender, and emotionally earnest to a fault (21/6/2013 11:46:38 PM)

Visually stunning, great music, tiresome and unnecesary narration... twirling, TWIRLING.

All the Malick boxes ticked. Next!

Also: I'm pretty sure someone said "I in you" at some point. And I'm pretty sure I laughed.




Dr Lenera -> RE: frustrating, tender, and emotionally earnest to a fault (27/6/2013 6:58:00 PM)

Neil is an American travelling in Europe who meets and falls in love with Marina, a Ukrainian divorcée who is raising her 10-year-old daughter Tatiana in Paris. Marina and Tatiana relocate to Neil’s native Oklahoma, where he takes a job as an environmental inspector. After some time, the couple’s passionate romance cools. Marina finds solace with the Catholic priest Father Quintana, who is undergoing a crisis of faith, but Tatiana begins to feel homesick. Sometime later, Marina tells Neil that her visa has expired, and she and her daughter return back to France. Neil reconnects with Jane, a childhood friend….



25 years elapsed between Terrence Malick making his second and third film. Now, he seems to be churning them out more and more quickly, with no less than three projects in post-production. Perhaps the 70 year old feels time is running out and wants to get all his filmic ideas out there before it’s too late?. In any case, his work is getting more and more strange. Who would have expected the guy who made Badlands to interrupt a later film for half an hour to show the creation of the universe? Some might say his films are getting increasingly ‘arty-farty’. Some might say pretentious. I would agree with those two comments, but would also add words like beautiful, poetic, dream-like, unique. Malick does seem to be making films more and more just to please him, but in these days of garbage like Man Of Steel being huge hits and commercial cinema dumbing down more and more, we should treasure filmmakers like him. They are increasingly thin on the ground.

Saying that, it’s a wonder that he seems to be able to make his films without any interference. I don’t think he has ever had a big box office hit, and yet he seems able to waste as much footage as he wants. Would you believe it To The Wonder had performances from Michael Sheen, Jessica Chastain, Rachel Weisz, Barry Pepper and Amanda Peet that were all dropped from the final cut, and yet actors and actresses seem to be queuing up to work with him. Malick has an incredible mystique about him much like Stanley Kubrick, only more so. I’m not sure I’d place him quite up there with Kubrick, and yet you can make a fascinating comparison between the two. Both filmmakers are so similar and diametrically opposed philosophically. For example, they are both utter perfectionists and their films can have a certain ‘remoteness’ if you’re not emotionally and philosophically attuned to them. yet one tends to pre-plan a film to the letter and one tends to make things up as he goes along [To The Wonder had the cast-members shoot all their scenes without actually having a screenplay]. One tends to be negative about humanity in his work, one tends to be positive. One tends to be cynical, to find the darkness in things, while one tends to be emphasise the beauty in an almost sentimental way. And, unlike Kubrick, Malick is quite clearly, unashamedly, religious, though he has his own views about a ‘higher power’ which are not quite the same of those of conventional Christianity.

So here we have To The Wonder, and I should say right away that this if you hated Tree Of Life, you’ll probably hate this even more. It’s a much smaller-scale story, and may not have dinosaurs and Heaven, but it’s an even harder film to get ‘round’ unless you’re a fan of this director. I have become one, so within minutes I was thoroughly enjoying it, and yet you would have be totally blind to see how it would leave your ‘average’ viewer [and I use that word meaning no disrespect] totally cold. I reckon that if I had watched it at another time, I may well have been rather bored. Some films are meant to be viewed when you are of a certain mindset, in a certain mood. Last night, I was ready to appreciate a much more abstract way of storytelling than most filmmakers employ, to get into the strange, esoteric vibe that Malick creates. The best way to approach To The Wonder is to not expect to see a normal narrative with the features you would normally see. In fact, on a first viewing it’s probably best not to even concentrate. Instead, just let the images, the narration and the philosophy just wash all over you.

Reduced to its most basic level, To The Wonder is a very simple story of a relationship. We open with Neil and Marina in the full flushes of love, and then trace the development of this love. The tale actually holds few surprises. It’s the way it’s told that makes it the movie so different, unless you’re familiar with the style that Malick seems to be refining in his films. Scenes are very short and cut to the bone. Editing within them elliptically breaks all the rules. Characters are portrayed visually in their relationship to nature. The female characters, especially Marina, seem to constantly dance around in a very ethereal manner. The sun is constantly shining through trees and backlighting characters. In fact, the sun, who could be God, is a character. Characters narrate their thoughts, some of which are easy to interpret, some of which are very cryptic. Very serious music often plays in the background. What is different to some of Malick’s other work is that dialogue is not present very much at all, and the film just doesn’t need it. Generally though, this is pure Malick, his style taken to such far extremes that it verges on the edge of parody, and yet it’s stunningly beautiful….if you like this style. The cutting within scenes for example: what should be jagged is actually soothing. The film manages to get through its plot very quickly, with events often passing as if in a dream, yet feels entirely unhurried.

So what is it all about? Is it really about lofty, philosophical issues, or should we just take everything at face value? It does seem to be saying that one’s interpretation of love may not actually be what real love is. We don’t really get to know Neil, and this is in a film where Ben Affleck [good director yes, good actor no] being in it isn’t a hindrance, but we do get to know Marina, albeit in a way that gives us a rounded human being, flaws and all, and which asks us to work out why she is the way she is. She seems to be a person who can have everything she wants, but still doesn’t really know what she wants, except unconditional love. The ravishingly gorgeous Olga Kurylenko is virtually made love to by the camera in this film; in fact, I barely noticed Ben [probably a good thing] half the time. And then there’s another strange, ambiguous ending which in its own way is almost as puzzling as Tree Of Life’s, if far more low-key. For a start, you’re obviously meant to make up your own mind as to whether it’s a positive or negative finish. The final minute contains some of the most beautiful shots in cinema of the last few years, and how they were achieved without breaking Malick’s credo of only using natural light I have no idea.

Some parts of To The Wonder don’t work as well as they should. The subplot of the priest seeming to question his faith sometimes comes across as being not only an annoying digression from the main story but also a bit heavy-handed, though it no doubt meant a lot to Malick and is essential to the film’s celebration of wonder, to be lost in total awe, whatever it may be in wonder and awe of [here, mainly love and God, though all of Malick's work is in awe of nature]. I don’t think Malick has yet resolved some of the issues he likes to explore on screen, like existentialism versus spirituality. But thank God he is still out there doing what he loves. This maddening film, a film of moments rather than events, of impressions rather than depictions, is art at its highest level, though actually it probably wouldn’t seem so out of place in the 60’s and 70’s, pure proof that cinema has regressed. Not too many seem to have enjoyed this film, and perhaps even less have ‘got’ it [I’m not sure I did], but I doubt this bothers Malick too much. These days I seem to find myself ploughing through so much crud as a regular cinema-goer, so every now and again I need a film that will regain my faith in movies. To The Wonder is nowhere near perfect – for a start it’s rather remote and cold for a film about love – but it has still done the trick this time. Even if I only understood a quarter of it, in a small way I feel it has enriched my life.

8/10




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