voyage-of-time

I have a problem with director Terrance Malick. He creates these deeply nuanced films, like the documentary Voyage of Time, which makes it close to impossible for a writer to reach his word count when reviewing them. Have some compassion for those working against a deadline!

With Voyage of Time, there is no plot to summarize. No characters to introduce. There are only images, and from those, a story is lifted. Additionally, Malick makes it difficult to vouch for the movie. How can I tell somebody that they would enjoy a Roreshach? The film is open to interpretation, with everybody coming away with their own opinions. I can almost hear the sound of my collective readers exclaiming “But, dear author, that is the point of art!” I agree, dear reader, but this film takes that notion to the utmost extreme. It tells the story of life, which itself is vague and open for interpretation.

This review may sound like a cop out, but for a 45-minute montage of nature accompanied by Brad Pitt’s sultry voice asking things like “When did dust become life?” it is the best I can do. The film charts the entire journey life has taken, from the Big Bang, to multi-celled organisms, to the glowing creatures we are today. Periodically we flit to a cute little girl frolicking in a field.

This serves as the anchor of the story, the commonality all these life forms are working towards – the pinnacle of evolution. Us. For those few frames I feel like I am watching Tree of Life again, an equally vague movie that at least has characters a writer can explain in order to fill up page inches.

Despite its vagueness, the imagery is a masterpiece. Cinematographer Paul Atkins puts to work the skills he garnered on Earth, another visual feast whose main player consists of the natural world. This is a film to which IMAX is necessary. To view it any other format is to do it a disservice. The most intelligent choice of the experience was to display the film over our grandest cinematic technology. “Awesome” is an over used phrase in our lexicon, but the imagery in this film calls for the invocation of it’s correct usage.

So yes, the sheer beauty of the film was enough to make one weak at the knees. The sound design is so lush and detailed it could make one salivate. However, I walked away feeling like I was missing something. A jolt ran through me as I realized “maybe I didn’t get it!” The horror!

Then I realized why that self doubt was bubbling inside of me. While the movie is a technical masterpiece, it bullies the audience into liking it by flexing its sheer ambition. In the opening sequence, Brad Pitt’s voice ushers the audience into the experience by addressing us as “Dear Child,” like a teacher may to a student.

With Voyage of Time, his first documentary, Malick attempts to sit the audience down and teach us something about life, but I walked away feeling as if I didn’t learn a thing.