Peaceful Stoner’s review published on Letterboxd:
Faith is a Wonder. It is as intangible, as inexplicable and as far away from us as we think it is close, as the place it resides in, our mind. Faith is the foundation on which our lives are laid. We depend on it for support, lean on it for inspiration and constant encouragement through our lives, need it to comfort us in times of sorrow and vexation. We always hope our Faith will carry us forward in life and make our memories eternal and our will strong enough to survive life’s inflictions. We hope that our Faith will eventually deliver us from all our sins and provide us salvation.
Faith differs from person to person. We may have Faith in God, in love, in our family, in our friends or not have Faith in anything, which is also in a way a Faith because that is a very strong, valid belief of not to trust anyone or anything in the world. But whatever the Faith maybe and who ever be the person who beholds it, the one thing which stands is, it is the most basic thing which acts as the establishment of our lives. What happens if we question the very ideals we believe in? Without Faith we become easily afflicted by the way of the world and its severity. We become powerless, waiting for life and its pain to suck dry our happiness.
To the Wonder is Malick's surreally beautiful, forbidding and wondrous vision of people and their tremulous lives, the reason being their steadily disintegrating Faiths. Malick explores how love and faith of both carnal and spiritual types, in their many phases of passion, stress, obligation and sorrow can alchemize lives and have the potential to both destroy and reinvent them.
Marina has her Faith in Love. She has already tasted the bitterness of betrayal. She never hoped to be loved again. She has become so used to the darkness of living without love. So much so, that the shining happiness of true love would almost blind her. But then out of nowhere she meets a person who shows love, but not promise, not willingness. He loves her like no one ever has. He took her out of the shadows and made her open her eyes to the happiness in herself and around the world. He made her reluctance to fall in love again, melt away. He broke her penance, redeemed her and brought her back to life. But Neil is a man who showers incredible kindness and love on her but is not willing to commit. He keeps pondering about the paths available to him that he lets go the best moment for taking either one of them. Eventually he decides. But his decision does not stem from glad inclination, but from an unavoidable compulsion to do the right thing. A person who sincerely yearns for something might be the truest embodiment of that particular emotion. Marina is such a person. All her life she has wanted to love, to be loved and feel a love that loves her and makes her totally unite with another. Their marriage turns things from bad to worse. Human nature, insecurity, a severe identity crisis, health and fate come into play and diminish the once unbound joy, charm and excitement that their new born love had. Most agonizingly it takes the life out of their love.
When we patiently and painfully yearn for something and never happen to get it, it results in pain. But the pain, of receiving what we waited for so meditatively, and then witnessing Time gradually depleting it to mere nothingness is incomparable to the former. It is so much more painful. That is the pain Marina experiences. Their love has become a stream which goes dry when the rain of excitement does not feed it. Her angst makes her commit ugly and regrettable deeds which take her life on a downward spiral of sorrow and grief which she is all too familiar with but praying never to experience again. She had Faith in love. She witnesses her Faith rewarded with promise of love in her life and it being taken away not once but twice. Her life devolves into chaos. Her pain is insufferable. Her pain means the world to her.
The priest is a pure soul. He is like The Tree of Life. He elicits all the pains from truthful confessions and buries all the ugliness of humanity inside himself. He disposes all that is undesirable and propagates happiness brewed only from his faith in God. He accumulates the true suffering of good people who did not deserve such misery. He preaches them to sustain their Faith in God and Love. He has nobody to resort to but God. Only his Faith in God offers him refuge and respite from all the frenzied acts of humans. Only his Faith in God offers him strength to bear the harshness of life. But the amount of filth and disgust in people who do wrong and the misgivings befalling the good ones has reached such a monstrous proportion that he sways from his belief and questions the inactivity of God. All his life it was his Faith in God that has kept him in the right path, the path of love and not God Himself. He reflects whether he has been preaching the truth or pretending to be preaching the truth. Pretending to be preaching the truth is much more appalling than straight bare lying. The mendaciousness in the latter is much more and that is why Quintana is hit really hard. He is torn between his beliefs and thoughts, not able decide if it was he who has deceived people or was it God who has deceived him by not acting. His love for the world and the people in it has made him doubt God’s existence. He is the epitome of human Love. His love is like a spring from the earth which never declines. The world’s pain is his pain. The world’s pain means the world to him.
How to face the World and what must be done when Faith ebbs away is never explained explicitly by Malick. In order to regain Faith we have to climb the steps which we originally did to inception it into our minds. We have to start afresh, be born again a new person, appreciate the happiness in the world with the same old glee and accept the pains with maturity and evenness of mind. Sometimes Faith can be reinstated by simply reminding ourselves, had it not been for our Faiths we would not have come this far and been this prosperous in our lives. We must never let go, The Wonder called Faith.
To the Wonder looks and feels like a dream. Dreams are incongruous, disjointed and contain mostly images without much of conversations. Malick’s vision is a recollection or a retelling of Marina’s memories. The film jumps, fleets, sometimes tip toes from one point to another in Marina’s life much like a dream of hers would. The film and its gorgeously tuned classical music are so beautifully intertwined and brim with such hypnotic daze and captivating charm that I got into Marina’s thoughts and into her skin so easily and could empathize with her pains so efficaciously. It cannot be simplified and termed as non-linear. It is much more than that. Malick’s vision does much more than what a normal non-linear story line would do on the viewer. To the Wonder is a wonderful haze which just covers you wholly in its deeply intricate and personalized narrative structure. It is like the clouds in the sky which have no proper form, are shapeless, floating, yet so outstandingly beautiful. That is To the Wonder for me.
I have often thought about Memento and how good its script must have been furnished to tell it backwards. But after watching this film, I read that Malick shot the film without a script in his hand and most of the film’s narrative dialogues which form the nucleus of the film were written during post production. I was literally shocked. Then I realized I should not be, as this was a feat within the realms of possibility for a person who I consider a God.
Village Voice critic J.Hoberman once said “Where other movies have fans, Malick’s produce disciples”. I had already become a disciple after watching his Godly work, The Tree of Life. To the Wonder has just invigorated my faith in Malick and my reverence of Him to wondrous proportions
To the Wonder truly made me to wonder how difficult it is to acquire the taste of Malick. It truly made me wonder how true a son of Nature and God Malick is. It truly made me wonder how gifted I was to see his creations. To the Wonder is truly a Wonder.