Impressions of … To The Wonder [Terrence Malick]

Well, well, well, what are we looking at here? Figures in a landscape, lovers wandering beneath a vast sky, lost in a world suffused with God’s benign, generalised love. With ‘Tree of Life’ synthesised a kind of autobiographical cosmic nostalgia, a man’s life, specifically his childhood, and the life of the universe, its birth, specifically, interwoven; some sequences were rapturous, unique, but not here, in this narrative of romantic indecision and infidelity Malick crosses the line from spiritual to religious, it’s too doctrinal, what we’re looking at is Terrence Malick coming out of the Catholic closet, and all the swooning steady-cam and the bucolic spiritual imagery aestheticises a very conservative sense of morality – (Marxist’s would call this ‘bourgeois mysticism’, I guess, “to the wonder”, indeed.)

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there is an ambivalence, a mistrust of sex: the love affairs are bizarrely innocent, the women girlish, flirting and dancing in front of the man/camera, more like a daughter with her father – Olga Kurylenko’s character girlish to the point of being clinically immature; when the man (Ben Affleck) returns to his foreign lover and marries her, his ex (Rachel McAdam) argues he has turned what they had into mere ‘lust’ – but we didn’t see much evidence of that lust; the infidelity timorous and fraught with guilt – this is romantic love as a substitute for divine love

And what is the troubled priest (Javier Bardem) doing in this story, except to guide the viewer toward a proper understanding of the characters’ predicament, by making him troubled he attempts to avoid didacticism, but the tactic is too obvious, it makes the priest’s words more compelling because they appear hard won. On the other hand, his doubt means he can wander in front of the camera with the same pensive yearning as Ben Affleck’s conflicted lover, this equivalence at least removes the distance between laity and clergy, that’s something

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I confess I have a little  sympathy for the film’s conclusion, the beauty of forgiveness, without reward (of a happy ending), and all that, but when it’s all over the experience was pleasant but inconsequential, which I don’t think is the response for which Malick would have been hoping

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