To the Wonder: Malick Being Malick

by Ethan Alter April 12, 2013 8:00 am
<i>To the Wonder</i>: Malick Being Malick

If you're not already a card-carrying member in the cult of Terrence Malick, I'm not sure that I'd use To the Wonder as a recruitment tool, as this slender wisp of a romantic drama represents both the director's simplest, yet strangely most complex work to date. Gone are the beautifully rendered period backdrops that defined Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line and The New World, as well as the grand cosmic questions that fueled his last, most divisive film, The Tree of Life. Instead, much like his debut feature, Badlands (recently re-issued in a must-own Criterion Blu-ray edition), Wonder is the small-scale story of two people in love, whose affair is destined to end badly. But where Badlands recounts a relatively straightforward narrative (for Malick, anyway), Wonder pushes his late-career trend towards abstraction and ellipticism well past what may be the breaking point for most viewers, even amongst his most devoted fans. It's not necessarily a difficult film to watch, but it does prove somewhat difficult to love.

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