|Mont St. Michel enriches the romance of Neil and Marina.|
Normally I would not give away too much of a movies plot, but in the case of To the Wonder (2012) I feel a little prior knowledge could help understand what
transpires on the screen!
Neil (Ben Affleck) is an American traveling in Europe who meets and falls in love with Marina (Olga Kurylenko), a Ukrainian divorcee who is raising her 10-year-old daughter Tatiana in Paris. The lovers travel to Mont St. Michel, the island abbey off the coast of Normandy, basking in the wonder of their newfound romance. Neil makes a commitment to Marina, inviting her to relocate to his native Oklahoma with Tatiana. He takes a job as an environmental inspector and Marina settles into her new life in America with passion and vigour. After a short while, their relationship cools. Marina finds solace in the company of another exile, the Catholic priest Father Quintana (Javier Bardem), who is undergoing a crisis of faith. Work pressures and increasing doubt pull Neil further apart from Marina, who returns to France with Tatiana when her visa expires. Neil reconnects with Jane (Rachel McAdams), an old flame. They fall in love until Neil learns that Marina has fallen on hard times. Gripped by a sense of responsibility, and his own crisis of faith, he renews his association with Marina after another trip to France. She returns with him to Oklahoma, resuming her American life.
Although Malick is credited with writing the script for this movie, it has been alleged that the cast worked without a screenplay. Not difficult considering that this abstract romantic drama has no real dialog. It consists mainly of narration spoken in French and Spanish from two of the films main characters, the Ukrainian divorcee Marina and the Catholic priest Father Quintana. The film certainly does not fall into what could be described as a normal narrative format and anyone expecting to see a plot driven romance: forget it!
There is no doubt that the seventy year old Terrence Malick is a very unique filmmaker and like his last film Tree of Life (2010) his latest cinematic offering is a joy to look at. Mexican born Emmanuel Lubezki is the Director of Photography on both these films and they certainly benefit from his masterful touch. It brings to mind Antonioni’s Red Desert (1964).
Malick’s film was the final review of the American film critic Roger Ebert before his death on April 4th from which I borrow a quote ‘Malick, who is surely one of the most romantic and spiritual of filmmaker, appears almost naked here before his audience, a man not able to conceal the depth of his vision’ I could not agree more, the movie does appear autobiographical and encourages the viewer to feel the pain of the protagonists. A movie not necessary for every one, but one that does emphasise the craft of an immensely skilful filmmaker.