Thursday, April 25, 2013

"To the Wonder": Another meditation from Malick, largely set in the heartland; stunning music

To the Wonder” may seem like a post-script to director Terrence Malick’s theological “The Tree of Life”, and that earlier compendium is even quoted in the newer film. It also has a story culturally and structurally similar to yesterday’s film (“Upstream Color”).  Much of it is filmed around Bartlesville, OK, maybe 300 miles from Dallas in yesterday’s film.  You had a feeling that Ben Affleck (Neil) and Shane Carruth could easily trade places; they have similar charisma.
The music score, compiled by New Zealand composer Hanan Townshend, brings together a lot of less common but effective classical music, including a Dvorak Slavonic Dance and a Gorecki symphony, and the prelude to Wagner’s “Parsifal”.  The music credits rolled so fast that I couldn’t read them.  Was that slow, modulating theme often played by John Adams? There is discussion of the score (website url) here
The story is innocent enough. In the opening, Neil and Marina (Olga Kurylenko) fall in love in Paris, and one a particularly touching visit to Mont St. Michel (the film shows the liquidity of the tide sands).  Neil brings her back to Oklahoma, where he works as an environmental inspector.   Mairna, from the Ukarine and divorced, raises a daughter Tatiana whom she brings with her.   Olga befriends another exile, a Catholic priest (Javier Bardem).  When Marina’s visa expires, she has to go back to France with her daughter, while Neil is “distracted” by another girl friend, Jane (Rachel McAdams). 
Visually, the film was stunning, particularly on a large, almost Imax-sized screen at Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield (Fairfax) Va.  There are many scenes in a high-end suburban development of mega-homes, similar to those in Dallas (they don’t have basements).  There is a ranch scene with a stunning vista of the distant Ozarks.  There are also scenes of poverty, among the parishoners of the priest. 
I can recall a road trip with friends (from Dallas) in 1981, first to Tulsa, then to the Ozarks, where we visited a family that lived in a run down rural mobile home park.  The level of the poverty was just about the same in this movie.
The official site (Magnolia Pictures) is here. (Yesterday’s film would make a good companion release.) 

Picture: Arbuckle Mountains, OK,  my image, Nov. 2011

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