Acclaimed director Terrence Malick’s latest film, To The Wonder, has officially been acquired by Magnolia Pictures and is slated to have a U.S. theatrical release next year.
The film, starring Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace), had its world premiere at the 2012 Venice International Film Festival (as did other heavyweights like P.T. Anderson’s The Master), and much like any other Malick film, opened to severely mixed reviews.
Cheers from critics, and some infamous boo-ing from the audience, took over the screening in Venice. Robbie Collin from the Telegraph gave the flick a largely positive review, detailing the strange reception, but also heralding the film as another great one for the director, with big themes and lots to contemplate. Not all film critics are unabashed worshippers of the piece, however. Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter seemed to feel less than stellar, citing Malick’s tendency to edit out the main, male character of his films as a potential problem here: “… the film as edited concentrates almost entirely on the women and makes Neil look like an ineffectual bystander.”
Is this really a problem? It is central to the viewing public’s ongoing struggle with Malick’s work. Certainly Tree of Life (2011) cut-down “main character” Sean Penn’s screen time to minimal at best, but the film’s themes – birth, existence, Christianity – were perhaps the real main characters of the work. And one could argue that The New World (2005), billed by Hollywood as the Pocahontas/John Smith love story, was really a story of the American landscape – a portrait of our environment, and the beginnings of American culture and ideals.
In To The Wonder, Neil, played by Affleck, is coupled with Kurylenko’s Marina, as they move from France to Oklahoma. Plagued by their own problems, and the entrance of new and old loves in both their lives (Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem), the film is described in its Magnolia press release as an “exploration of love in its many forms.” Paired again with his Tree of Life and The New World cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, the film is sure to be on par cinematically with his typical fare – gorgeous, picturesque, etc.
Best guess? Whether audiences love it or hate it (or can even manage to sit through the whole movie – you know who you are), Malick is still sitting on top of that list of best living directors; any filmmaker who can drive the debate between art and cinema like this man can is, if nothing less, a champion of his craft.