Ever wanted to capture a beautiful blown
bubble, reached out and grasped it, only to have it disappear in your hand?
That best describes my attempts to write about To The Wonder.
A year or more ago, I set aside five pages of roughly scribbled notes made during my first viewing. I was so moved, so overwhelmed, that I felt unable to capture and accurately present it in words, perhaps even dishonor it with inadequate writing skill.
I've watched it again, and still its essence, style and concept elude words. The work of Terrence Malick, who's written and directed it, does that for many; never more so, me. Folks will either love or hate this film; I doubt there's middle ground.
It's beautiful to watch and hear, with little dialogue. We're taken on an odyssey of love, from its pinnacle when it seems enough to conquer all, through its evolution and conclusion.
Marina (Olga Kurylenko) is French, a beautiful free spirit raising her daughter Tatiana (Tatiana Chiline) in Paris. She's fallen deeply, passionately in love with Neil (Ben Affleck), an American visiting Paris, and he with her.
The theme is set by Marina as she and Neil visit Le Mont-Saint-Michel in France. As she's climbing steps there, she softly says, "We climbed the steps to the Wonder."
|Le Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France|
At his request, Marina and her daughter accompany Neil to America, and their story unfolds.
There are interspersed, peripheral storylines which make muted societal points, but Marina and Neil's story is central.
I question whether the film isn't semi-autobiographical, given that Terrence Malick (according to Wikipedia) met a French woman in Paris in 1980, married her in 1985, and divorced her sometime after 1996 at his request.
Malick juxtaposes reality with the artistic and ethereal; a story of exquisitely beautiful images and scenes (his trademark) with a tale 'painted' as much as told, a story as enigmatic as love.
To The Wonder will warm and hurt your heart as it indelibly writes on your mind and soul. At least, it did/has mine.
April 15, 2015 Postscript
Cinephilia & Beyond have an excellent piece on Terrence Malick's exquisite 1978 film, Days of Heaven.