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To The Wonder / À la Merveille [Blu-ray] 
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NOTICE: Polish Release, cover may contain Polish text/markings. The disk DOES NOT have French audio and subtitles. After falling in love in Paris, Marina and Neil come to Oklahoma, where problems arise. Their church's Spanish-born pastor struggles wi...
Dopo aver visitato il Monte Saint Michel - noto come una delle meraviglie della Francia (da qui il Wonder del titolo) - Marina e Neil sono all'apice della loro storia d'amore. Arrivati in Oklahoma, per loro iniziano i problemi. Marina fa la conoscenza di un prete in crisi di vocazione, mentre Neil riallaccia il rapporto con una sua amica d'infanzia, Jane. --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
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L'ordonnancement des scènes (est-il chronologique ? ne l'est-il pas ? L'ambigüité subsiste tout au long du film), le contraste des lieux (le Mont Saint-Michel, Paris, l'Oklahoma) contribuent à brouiller les pistes pour nous laisser nous concentrer sur un message essentiel : l'amour, dans l'existence, n'est pas une option, mais une obligation vitale. La caméra suit pas à pas les personnages, avec une grâce paradoxalement tout aussi artificielle que naturelle, et explore leurs mouvements, leurs convergences et leurs divergences, avec une profonde pudeur.Lire la suite ›
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In view of that it seems a bit odd that Magnolia pictures offers a synopsis of the `plot' and that should be shared here: `Neil (Ben Affleck) is an American traveling in Europe who meets and falls in love with Marina (Olga Kurylenko), an Ukrainian divorcée who is raising her 10-year-old daughter Tatiana (Tatiana Chiine) in Paris. The lovers travel to Mont St. Michel, the island abbey off the coast of Normandy, basking in the wonder of their newfound romance. Neil makes a commitment to Marina, inviting her to relocate to his native Oklahoma with Tatiana. He takes a job as an environmental inspector and Marina settles into her new life in America with passion and vigor. After a holding pattern, their relationship cools. Marina finds solace in the company of another exile, the Catholic priest Father Quintana (Javier Bardem), who is undergoing a crisis of faith. Work pressures and increasing doubt pull Neil further apart from Marina, who returns to France with Tatiana when her visa expires. Neil reconnects with Jane (Rachel McAdams), an old flame. They fall in love until Neil learns that Marina has fallen on hard times.'
It is possible to give each of these basically silent (voice over) characters an interpretation but instead it feels as though Malick is simply watching four people respond to the world as it affects interpersonal relationships. Father Quintana, in his painful sadness at trying to find the light that God once provided him to nurture his fellow man, appears be whispering that the reason for our breakups, for our fragmented lives and relationships, is that we can no longer see God. If we could, we would be whole again. Yet even this concept seems less important than every person in the presence of this film finding his/her own meaning: Malick seems to be providing that privacy, that distancing from making his `characters' fully credible that allows each of them to become part of our own longings and angst and faith that somewhere, sometime this will all make sense - if it is supposed to.
The cinematography is provided by Emmanuel Lubezki and the musical score is attributed to Hanan Townsend: there should be mention of the use of themes from classical composers - Wagner's Parsifal themes and Henryk Górecki's symphonic music being the two most often used. But in the end this is a Terrence Malick meditation, and as such it is the way he combines the images, the light, the locations, the music and the actors to make us ponder. Grady Harp, April 13
This is a radical move, to bypass a theatrical release. But this works for this type of film, I believe, because the same-day limited release in theaters generates same-day reviews across the country and could result in great VOD traffic. This could be a new strategy for independent films.
This is only fitting because this is such an intimate, personal film -- or experience -- that to share it in a dark auditorium with total strangers seems to be the antithesis of this film.
I watched it on On Demand in HD and I found it to be, like all of Terrence Malick's films, a deeply internal experience. You're and constantly being pulled in several directions:
1) You're never sure what's going on in a Terrence Malick film; yet you're assured that it's a steady hand that's riding the keel. A Malick film is a journey -- you go with it. It's the same sort of experience or sensation that you have when you're watching a Stanley Kubrick film for the first time. The story and the meaning is never obvious or written out. It's something that seeps into you.
2) I keep using the word "experience" because that's so much of what a Malick film is. He's never followed traditional linear storytelling. He has his own entirely unique voice. And that's what a filmmaker has to have to stand above the rest and be unique. It's more sensory. More emotional; and not gut-wrenching and buckets of tears emotional--internal conscious thoughts-at-work emotional.
3) It's mind-numbing and awe-inspiringly beautiful. Every shot -- every single image -- is to die for. And all -- ALL -- are shot in NATURAL LIGHT!!! Every shot backlit. To bring that final message home I found myself compelled to pick up my pocket camera and shoot these handful of photos off the screen. And these don't do To The Wonder justice.
Emmanuel Lubezki deserves a special American Society of Cinematographers achievement award for this work. (Of course, that won't happen. It will go to another all digitally composited film as it has for the past three years with Avatar, Hugo, Life of Pie.)
So often you hear filmmakers say words to the effect of, "We didn't want to talk about the subject of the movie -- we wanted to talk around it." In Terrence Malick's universe, the actors barely talk at all, unless it is in Voice Overs of the thoughts of the characters are posing in questions to themselves. This could sound absurd in another filmmaker's film, but in a Terrence Malick film it's expected. And it's brilliant!
Any other film is told in a story and you can almost see the screenplay's scene cards pinned onto the screen. In To The Wonder Malick doesn't even seem to bee shooting the scenes. Instead, he shoots everything that happens between the scenes. This could be frustrating for some traditional movie watchers. For me, however, I'm always watching movies in search of something new and different and original.To The Wonder is that film.
Yet you sense, from images that you can relate to like recognizing similar snap shots from moments in your own life of knowing happiness, love, resentment, doubt, loss.
There is a bigness and an emptiness to the film -- and this, I am certain, is intentional. Everything in Oklahoma is Big. The houses are Big. The rooms are Big. The skies are Big. The streets are wide. The rooms are spare, if not devoid of furniture. The people seem almost lost in it all, there is so much space between them. I believe that Malick is trying to say that there is an emptiness in the characters lives. And everyone is seeking love, either the love of another person or for the love of God to be returned, and that the vastness and emptiness in these places represents the space that the characters are hoping to be filled up with love.
I can't help but think of the connection between this film and Malick's film from -- years ago The Thin Red Line. While that was a film set in World War Two, at its essence was a story about people that were all strangers in a strange land. The Americans and the Japanese they were fighting couldn't be more different from each other -- totally separated by language, race, culture. The Americans fearing death and the Japanese preferring death to surrender. They could have just as easily be aliens from another planet, a variation on War of the Worlds. Also, the Japanese from the northern Pacific and the Americans from North America being brought to do combat on a harsh tropical island (Guadalcanal) in the Southern Hemisphere, which both armies were complete strangers to.
The story takes place in Paris and Oklahoma. Ben Affleck meets Olga Kurylenko in Paris and brings her back to his home in Oklahoma. Life is happy and playful, but then the realities of being back in his world and at work set in. Domestic bliss gives way to mutually dissatisfied dreams and disillusionment. Then another woman from Affleck's youth, Rachel McAdams, comes back into his life. There is rekindled love. But love, like flowers, bloom and fade.
Ben Affleck has hardly any on-camera lines in the film. Yet you always seem to know where he is in his life. He seems like a man who doesn't fit in on his home turf. Is much more comfortable being somewhere else, in this case Paris, where he can be who he really feels like he is inside or can be free to be somebody else. When he returns with his French love to Oklahoma, she no longer fits in. And he doesn't really seem to want to be there either.
He begins seeing Rachel McAdams, an Oklahoma girl who works horses on a family ranch. There is happiness there. But Affleck is a wrestless spirit.
Perhaps his character is a romantic adventurer -- someone for whom every new love is like an around-the-world cruise filled with discovery, passion, zest for life. But, ultimately, you have to return home and there is always an eventual letdown that the trip is over -- back to the real world and who you really are.
I felt that I could relate to all the characters on each of their levels. That's the genius of Terrence Malick's films: By not clearly defining the characters (I don't even think they address each other by name) they are open-ended enough to be malleable and easy to impose our own thoughts, feelings, recolections.
Mixed into this is Javier Bardem as Catholic priest who is new to a parish and trying to reach out and fit in. But he is conflicted about being a stranger in a strange land. His internal voice speaks in Spanish to God, searching for answers. He believes in God, but he seems to be asking God to tell him that He believes in the priest.
There's a poignant scene where the priest conducts a wedding ceremony, then afterwards the family and guests are rejoicing and shaking hands and talking with one another -- everyone is paired up -- and Javier Bardem is walking through them alone. He's seeking God's love and wisdom, but you sense he fears that he is walking in a Godless emptiness.
This is Malick's first film set in the contemporary world, rather than the 17th century, the turn of the 20th century, the 1940s or 1950s.
I have no idea how this film started out on the written page. I could not imagine it as a screenplay. I could see it more as being drawn from the pages of a treatment. Or a novel. Or a poem. Because this is a visual poem.
Roger Ebert's final review was for To The Wonder. If this was the last movie he saw, I think he passed away happy. And, with the underlying sense of nature and spirituality in the film, with a sense of contented grace.
After watching a Terrence Malick film, it stays in your system. You feel content not to speak. Your mind is swirling with thoughts. You see the world from the perspective of a Steadicam Point-Of-View shot. And your ears are filled with the sound of string instruments and ethereal classical music.
This all sounds quite heavy and gloomy. And . . . well . . . yes . . . heavy, it kind of is. But, ultimately, in my view, To The Wonder is a sermon. A journey of various characters who are seeking love, and forgiveness, in their own way. A man seeking the love of a woman . . . even though he may not know which woman that is. Of a woman for a man, with all his faults. That none of us are perfect. That we are all flawed creatures and we must strive to build the best life that we can with what is available to us. Of the love of a man for a God that he is not certain is listening. Yet, even though he is reaching out in the darkness, he still does not give up hope that there is a God -- of some sort -- out there. And that we are all a part of something greater than ourselves. A universal goodness. That we are all connected. Albeit tenuously at times. I came away from To The Wonder with a sense that, if there is in deed a Heaven, then perhaps, for better or worse, it is here on this Earth and within our fingertips, if we will only accept it.
(Please NOTE: I am not addressing or espousing any specific religious belief, but a great, broad, all-encompassing and extremely esoteric and non-denominational spirituality.)
And whatever you may take away from To The Wonder, if you can ever come across 112-minutes of cinema that generates this type of intellectual stimulation, combined with incomparable beauty in every single shot -- and without digital compositing -- isn't that worth $7.99 in itself?
Thank you, Terrence Malick. And thank you, To The Wonder.
If you know a bit about Terrence Malick's life, you suspect that these reflections are autobiographical: the 60-something Malick probing how the 30- or 40-something Malick learned to partake in genuine love relations. But that doesn't matter much. The force of the inquiry does not depend on its status as autobiography.
The potential viewer of this film faces two questions: do you want to reflect on how you came, or might someday come, to love? and do you want to reflect on this from a specifically Christian point of view?
As I said, I don't myself share that point of view: that's not how I conceptualize my own learning-how-to-love experiences. But then I didn't learn how to love in Oklahoma either. (I did it, or tried, in Los Angeles, with a woman from farther away than France.) The film's reflections are specific to the experiences of its maker, but they explore a universal human problem.
The film is not entertainment. I aims not to sweep you away from your life for two hours but to plunge you more deeply into it. If you don't want to reflect on your life and on how you have loved or failed to love those with whom you have shared it, don't watch. But if you are drawn to such reflections, this film may help you pursue them.
(It may also help you see how film can serve as a medium for such reflection, if that wasn't already apparent to you. But this particular film is not about film.)
Neil (Ben Afflick) has fewer lines than you can count on your fingers and toes. He has a romantic affair in Paris with young Marina (Olga Kurylenko, "Oblivion"). She has young daughter, having been abandon by her husband. Neil agrees reluctantly to bring her to America where they are to be married and she can get her Green Card. Neil works for the state or federal EPA and is seen taking soil and water samples throughout the film. Why? Dunno.
As he becomes more distant emotionally, Marina and daughter will return to France, but eventually return. In the meantime, Neil rekindles a relationship with Jane (Rachel McAdams, "Midnight In Paris"). When she starts a discussion about marriage, Neil retreats again. Hey, the guy doesn't want to get married!
While all this is going on, Father Quintana (Javier Bardem, "Skyfall") is having his own mental issues. Is he doing all he can do for humanity? Should he even be a priest? He eventually becomes a confidant to Marina, when she returns. Marina and Neil reunite, but their bickering and emotional struggles increase to the point of being violent. Is anything resolved? Love isn't always perfect. As I look back at Malick's films, this one is certainly his least impressive but perhaps most personal.
In spite of my reservations about the film, there is nothing not to like about the Blu ray transfer. Shot using 35mm and 65mm cameras, it all comes across beautifully in the 1080p picture and with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The grey and brown starkness of rural Oklahoma comes across with excellent color and hue. The contrast is spot on and the detail is excellent. Malick's films always have great soundtracks and this one is no different. Using DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. There are numerous outdoor shots with staging in Paris and Oklahoma and the range from street noise to whistling wind come through the speakers loud and clear. I'm not sure why, but I had to raise the volume level a couple notches over my usual setting. Subtitles come in Spanish and English SDH. Here are the extras:
*The Making of To The Wonder (HD, 10:25)
*The Actors' Experience (HD, 5:54)
*The Ballet (HD, 5:59)
*Local Flavor (HD, 4:55)
*Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:59)