Terence Malick's Controversial ‘To the Wonder’ Coming to U.S. Screens
Magnolia Pictures will release the challenging film in 2013
I’ve been a fan of director Terence Malick since I saw “Badlands” and “Days of Heaven” as a kid in the 1970s. Twenty years would pass between “Days of Heaven” and Malick's next effort, the ciritically acclaimed World War II film, “The Thin Red Line.” As a director, Malick definitely marches to his own drumbeat, and I have always appreciated the lyrical beauty and contemplative themes of his films. Given his stature, it’s astonishing to realize that he’s only directed six feature films during his long career, including his new one, “To the Wonder,” that just found an American distributor.
Magnolia Pictures announced today that they have acquired to U.S. rights to “To the Wonder,” a film that sharply divided critics when it was screened earlier this month at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals. Some called it was Malick’s most visually arresting, deeply meditative work while others felt it was treading similar territory to his other films, including last year’s “Tree of Life,” a film that also divided critics and moviegoers.
“To the Wonder” stars Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko as a couple that meets in France and moves to Oklahoma to start a life together. But problems arise when Kurylenko meets a priest and fellow exile (Javier Bardem) and Affleck renews a relationship with his childhood sweetheart (Rachel McAdams). There is a surprising lack of dialogue in the film, something that frustrated audiences in Venice and Toronto, with Malick characteristically relying on images and music to convey the troubled events of the couple’s story. Apparently, while many dialogue-heavy scenes were shot for the film, most of them ended up on the cutting room floor, as did whole performances such as the work of Rachel Weisz, Michael Sheen, and Amanda Peet who do not appear in the final cut.
Personally, I can’t wait to see “To the Wonder.” Magnolia decided to wait until next year to release the film domestically, a surprising move since that means it won’t be an Oscar candidate in 2013. I admire Terence Malick’s unique and challenging style of moviemaking even though I can see why it makes some people crazy. My favorite comment about the film so far comes from its star, Ben Affleck, who acknowledged that the film was so out there it “makes ‘The Tree of Life’ look like ‘Transformers!’”