Wondering about To the Wonder


To the Wonder

Starring Ben Affleck (sort of), Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams; directed by Terrence Malick

Below are excerpts of an internal dialogue on this film (it’s best if you whisper these reflections out loud like voice-over narration):

We moviegoers climbed the steps, To the Wonder

Terrence Malick, your Tree of Life branched to the heavens, to time’s end and beginning, and now your boughs reach To the Wonder

And, I’ll go wherever you go

Newly seated, I open my eyes. I melt, and so does my candy. I sink into my eternal chair. A flicker. This film got me out of the darkness

Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko in To the Wonder.
Photo Courtesy of StudioCanal

You, film. You love me too

What is this film that loves us, that comes from nowhere... from all your previous work?

This film’s like a dream. In dream you can’t make mistakes. I dream you can depict whatever you want
I write on paper what I dare to say

We wish to watch inside the safety of normal film narrative. We fear that we have chosen the wrong film. Malick insists on choice. The one thing he condemns utterly is avoiding beauty, and whispered voice-over dialogue, and people twirling through landscapes. To choose his films is to commit yourself to his special vision. And to commit yourself is to run the risk of being confused, or bored, or frustrated, the risk of a challenging experience, the risk of your preferences. But Malick can deal with all of those. Forgiveness he never asks us. The man who doesn’t make a mistake can rejoice. But the man who hesitates, does nothing, who buries his talent in standard, tired movie technique, with him he can do nothing unique.

Simply observe people. They move through landscapes, rooms, and life. Repeat himself.

Everywhere this film is present, and still I cannot see Ben Affleck’s character… He’s within the frame… Why does he not hold on to what he has found?... My heart for him and his frustrations at love is hard

I’d never hoped to love a Malick film again. If his films love me, there’s nothing else I need from his films — explicit narrative, obvious explication. Love makes us one

Open my eyes. Enter my mind. Show me how to love your film

My sweet film. At last. How I loved your beauty, your visuals of great plain grassy fields, of Mont Saint-Michel tidal marshes, of glowing sunset skies, of luminously curvaceous flesh

There are two people inside me, one full of transcendent wonder for this film, the other pulls me down towards the mundane Earthly rhythms of plot, character, motivation, explanation, interpretation

Weak films never bring anything but an end to themselves. They evaporate when done

The wonder of the Wonder is to connect to how people are disconnected

From each other; how can one truly love and know other? We see, we love, we fall out of love, we struggle, we reconnect, we are internal, we are confused by the external other

From god; who floods our souls with its spirit and life so completely that we cannot see his reflection in all that is around us?

From home; what is this place whose walls surround us, whose windows frame foreign, puzzling images?

From place; why do we cut the Earth and toxify its flesh? Why do we strip it of beauty with strip malls and sterile, isolated dwellings? How do we pour our heart into familiar surroundings, to make it ourselves, and be pained when absent?

From film; why do we need constant kinetic stimulation? Constant mindless elucidation?

You shall love this film, whether you like it or not. Films, they come and go like clouds. This film is not only a feeling; you shall contemplate it. To not see it is to run the risk of missing an enduring experience, the risk of non-portrayal. You fear your love for films has died; perhaps it is waiting to be challenged by something higher. Awaken the divine interest which sleeps in each man, each woman. Know each other in that Malick never changes

The film asks us to love it. Invites us To the Wonder of it all

How did we lose you? Wandered into another film. Forgot you

My hope, my filmic god. Malick shall return. And tell me a story from before we can remember

Doug Young is a film critic and also a senior policy director for Governor John Hickenlooper.