Directed by Terrence Malick
22nd February - 7th March 2012
Love The One You’re With
Pretentious rubbish or profound masterpiece?
Following on from his abstract and esoteric The Tree Of Life Terence
Mallick’s outing here is also not an easy watch. Utilising extensive
flashbacks it charts the highs and lows of relationships that are unable
to stand the test of time.
Ben Affleck plays Neil, who materials out of the ethereal imagination
of Marina (Olga Kurylenko) as they speed through the French countryside
to the blurred kaleidoscopic backdrop of a train window. Later the wistfully
saturated greys of Mont Saint Chapelle’s shoreline has the pair
chancing an inching incoming tide. What does it portend? Back in romantically
shot Paris all is not straight forward. Marina has a young daughter from
a failed marriage. Unable to marry, Neil arranges for them to go to Oklahoma.
The transition does not last and the ten- year-old quickly turns sour
without her friends. Visas expired, Neil is left alone in limbo. Home
building thwarted, he concentrates on his job of environmentally cleansing
blighted and polluted communities. The doleful heaps of spoil and poisoned
streams mirroring his heavy demeanor.
He moves on to a chance re-union with ex-flame Jane (Rachel Adams), once
again caught up in the spiral of desire: all gold-red fields, wistful
herds of bison and caged herds of horses champing for release. Will it
work out this time? It doesn't and again minimalist gradations of disaffection
tilt the balance. Marina comes back for a second bite of the apple, Paris
having turned to dust after the daughter leaves to live with her father
and his new partner. Worries of an hysterectomy are averted and they eventually
tie the knot in a shabby ceremony with hand-cuffed prisoners for witnesses.
Not how to remember your happy day. A baby is on the horizon as the situation
again approaches breaking point. Marina spends a seedy afternoon in a
roadside motel and their love – hate polarisation is cauterised
Running throughout these, at times, irritating ecstasies and heartbreaks
another theme is introduced centred around the priestly duties of Father
Quintana (Javier Bardem). Ministering to a dystopian congregation on the
edge, his sermons on love are given beneath the magnificent permanence
of the stained glass windows that adorn his church. The paradox of the
film is this. Beautiful people with the luxury of the chance of everlasting
love do not have the psychic stamina to do it. Conversely, those less
fortunate can have someone who spiritually loves them but reciprocity
is denied. Unfortunately, while couples have the innate irrationality
to tear themselves apart, the system, in the form of a transfer of parish
for a priest, can rip a whole community to pieces. To The Wonder utilises
elemental panoramic photography, idiosyncratic and startling camera angles,
unconventional use of dialogue, (the visuals often speaking for themselves)
and an enigmatic soundtrack. Mallick demands that you stay the course,
but not necessarily enjoy his film. There was a lot of muttering and sighing
at the end of the viewing I attended, but for those who can think outside
the box the cogency of what is being signified here cannot be understated.