Up To The Second Cinema

Michael Leary unpacks Terrence Malick’s latest film, To the Wonder:

[T]he great scandal of To the Wonder is its utter sense of the present. It takes place in a generic version of now, rather than in a mythic version of the past. But then there is also Ben Affleck lumbering across most of his frames doing that thing with his jaw to indicate terse, conflicted male. Olga Kurylenko bounds through rapid changes of camera position and exquisitely framed patches of light and shadow similar to the dance of Q’orianka Kilcher through the dappled forests of The New World. But here the rustle of grass and reed are traded for the track of sunlight across freshly laid carpet and the swish of blinds and bedsheets. …

I had the uncanny sense while watching the film that Malick has caught up with history itself, his past forms of sacred curiosity deployed in our very midst. It is disconcerting to have his cinema erupting in our contemporary tense of the everyday, as if he is pushing his sense of history as myth into the prophetic mechanics of the present.