Terrence Malick is an acquired taste.
The mysterious director has built a prolific career, to be sure, but his style of filmmaking can be polarizing, with it’s emphasis on visual narratives and fractured style. Some have written him off as self-indulgent while others have looked upon him as a prophetic and profound.
Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. While some of his films have left me awestruck (TREE OF LIFE), I have found others to be less focused and, ultimately, missed opportunities (TO THE WONDER).
Thankfully, VOYAGE OF TIME: LIFE’S JOURNEY lands in the former category.
There is little to tell in terms of a ‘story’, per se. But that’s not really how Malick works anyways. Essentially chronicling the creation of the Earth, VOYAGE OF TIME wants you to experience its narrative, rather than explain it. By revealing the evolution of the planet with blistering colour and elegant music, Malick wants us to witness the terrifying beauty of nature in all its glory. A burst of colour explodes into the darkened sky. Volcanoes erupt to form land. Lightning strikes the earth and life begins in the seas. Through this style of storytelling, the result is both violent and graceful as we bear witness to Malick’s depiction of the evolutionary process.
Narrated by Cate Blanchett*, Malick also poses some fascinating spiritual questions by asking “Where did I come from?” and even, “Do you love me?” While there will be some who object to the fact that Malick takes an evolutionary approach in his film, they would be missing out on his larger argument that all creation has purpose. By the end of the film, as Blanchett claims that “we are bound with You in love”, Malick has deftly demonstrated that the beauty and violence associated with nature is in fact evidence of a Divine interaction with humanity. Yes, we are broken but there is something larger going on around us. In this way, Malick plays the role of psalmist, speaking truth and life into visual wonder.
Without question, there will be many who dismiss this film for its very slow pacing and accuse it of over-indulgence.
Still, I found this to be one VOYAGE that was worth the trip.
*(A shorter version of the film, entitled VOYAGE OF TIME: THE IMAX EXPERIENCE will be released exclusively in IMAX with Brad Pitt’s narration instead.)