To the Wonder (Malick, 2013)


The toxicity of emotional stagnation is all encompassing. It seeps from the ground, drifts like dust in the air, lingers on the wind’s breath, infecting us all no matter how hard we try to avoid it. “I’d hoped to never love again…” but is there another conceivable path? It starts from a place of instinctual bliss and slowly evolves toward an unthinkably silent, confused state of indecision and panic, or everyday life. Malick is once again measuring all things great and small through a cinema of vibrations and tones, and he’s created a massive/miniature tidal wave of momentum, filling the gaps where “narrative” should be with titanic images of lived experience devoid of wordplay. Heartache and joy, rage and confusion are no longer internal feelings, but external prayers sent outward for those around us to decipher and engage. Some people are more attuned to understanding than others.

This is a film of confessions and releases, towering industrial castles and deep horizons. A spinning glass orb, a spiraling camera that never stops swirling in harmony with the birds in the sky and the horses on the ground. Choosing to commit blissfully is the highest achievement, while choosing to commit out of convenience or necessity is a breach of all that is natural and right. We all dance around each other, pacing from one end of the frame to other, waiting to touch, hoping to graze against skin, yet afraid of realizing this sustained connection when it all happens gracefully enough. Eventually, after the fear and doubt and lust and desire and sadness subside, one final truth is revealed: we are ourselves at all times, but we are so much more than ourselves when we are in the right place, at the right time, with the right frame of mind, enjoying it all at once. That is transcendence, and sometimes, it does happen.