Terrence Malik’s To the Wonder is the second film in two years (after The Tree of Life) from the elusive director. Anticipation for the movie seemed high with seats at a premium for the film’s premiere and press conference. Terrence Malik and cast members Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem were absent from the event.
The love story is said to have semi-autobiographical elements similar to Malick’s life. The film is described as an unconventional love story that revolves around the theme of a spiritual quest. Ben Affleck plays the protagonist who has an affair with a European woman named Marina (Olga Kurylenko) while in Paris and eventually marries her. He moves back with his family to his hometown in Oklahoma. While his marriage is falling apart, the protagonist starts a relationship with an old love played by Rachel McAdams. Javier Bardem also appears in the film as Father Quintana, a priest questioning his faith.
Most of Malick’s work is shrouded in mystery with very few details being released about the film. There were reports prior to the film’s screening at Venice that several actor’s such as Rachel Weisz, Michael Sheen and Amanda Peet’s had their performances cut from the film. Malick seems to mold most of the film’s story during editing. He famously cut Adrian Brody, who was the lead in The Thin Red Line from the film’s final version and the actor didn’t know his fate until he went to the movie’s premiere. Sean Penn’s performance in The Tree of Life fell victim to the drastic edits and was greatly diminished.
Ben Affleck reportedly had very little dialogue in the film. Most of the narrative was provided in hushed voice-over by Marina (Olga Kurylenko) and Father Quintana (Javier Bardem).
Producers Nicolas Gonda and Sarah Green were on hand with stars Olga Kurylenko and Romina Mondello to field questions about the movie at the film’s press conference. Some of the elements in To the Wonder caused confusion with audiences. When asked why the movie poster had McAdams featured on it even though she had such a small role, Green noted the film didn’t have an official poster. There were also discrepancies between the press notes and what appeared in the film regarding character details such as Affleck’s character’s name and occupation.
The New York Times reported the film was met with boos and jeers at the premiere and public screening (a rare occurrence at the festival). Malick is great at conveying his story through captivating visual images. There is very little dialogue in his films and most of the spoken narrative is given in voice-over. I guess some of the confusing elements about the movie was frustrating to the audiences in Venice who waited in long lines to screen the highly anticipated film.