To the Wonder


Action / Drama / Romance


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June 15, 2013 at 06:59 AM


Olga Kurylenko as Marina
Ben Affleck as Neil
Javier Bardem as Father Quintana
720p 1080p
816.40 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 52 min
P/S 2 / 9
1.65 GB
23.976 fps
1hr 52 min
P/S 3 / 15

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Balthazar-5 10 / 10

Explain nothing, show everything. A great ethereal love story.

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.

Reviewed by john williams 1 / 10


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 star?

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.

Reviewed by laura_macleod 5 / 10

I'm giving it 5 for cinematography and 0 for story

A beautiful film if you judge it from the perspective of how it looks. But this guy Malik has lost the plot. The story could have been so interesting - but he made it banal and boring and silly. So much depth wasted. It is a story of love, a guy meets a pretty but emotionally loopy woman in Paris with a child, has a man/child love affair with her, brings her back to USA where her loopiness shows no outlet except prancing around on carpets and in fields and on beds. Guy gets fed up of her and off she goes back to Paris - but no friends back there and not surprising. Meanwhile, guy has an affair with an immensely interesting woman played by the lovely Rachel McAdams, and the complexity of this combined with the return of the loopy girl, is totally wasted, and I mean totally wasted. Malik thinks it is more meaningful to show turtles swimming under the sea than to explain the complexity of love and why the guy chooses the loopy girl over the beautiful childhood love of his life. Meanwhile loopy girl prances around being annoying and fights occur. We are also treated to a half blown performance from the excellent Bardem, and that could have been so interesting, but it is only inferred and his dilemma is never really delved into - because Malik is too busy preaching about the meaning of life and existentialism versus spirituality - obvious a place where he is stuck. The end of the film is laughable because we are left with a load of inferred imagery and we never really know what happened - except one thing for sure - that loopy girl is still prancing right to the end. Mr Malik, just for your information - people go to the cinema to get a story that is life enhancing and interesting. I've given you my last chance Mr Malik and I'm done. I think your films will be used in future for lessons in perfect cinematography, as long as the content of them is ignored.

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