Even though Terrence Malick is debuting his new film, "To the Wonder," just a year after his pervious effort, it's still a huge event among cineastes. As such, all eyes were on the film's premiere at the Venice International Film Festival this past weekend, where it played to divisive a reaction that's typical of Malick's latest films.
Early reports indicate that the film was audibly booed during a public screening, a rarity for this venue. Another screening saw the film met with more jeers than applause, though it's already found its share of defenders as well.
Per usual, the film was shrouded in mystery leading up to its debut, but the reaction out of Venice indicates that this might be Malick's most obtuse film yet. Descriptions pin the film as abstract and revolving around a spiritual quest, with much of it conveyed via voice-over narrations and very little actual dialogue.
Ben Affleck is "unquestionably the male lead," but he has "very few lines," as much of the film is said to be relayed via physical expressions and gestures. In the film, Affleck plays a man whose marriage to a European woman (Olga Kurylenko) goes sour and forces him to seek comfort from a childhood friend (Rachel McAdams) and a priest (Javier Bardem).
It's Malick's first film that isn't a period piece, but it doesn't sound any more accessible than "The Tree of Life,' the highly abstract spiritual rumination that the director released last year. "To the Wonder" simply sounds like an extension of the style used in that film, and its reaction so far doesn't seem like much of a surprise.
If it bothers Malick himself, no one is likely to ever know. The reclusive director of course wasn't present in Venice, though this is likely because he's working on at least two more films at the moment.
Something tells me the early reaction to "To the Wonder" won't tell the complete tale; after all, "Tree of Life" was reportedly booed at Cannes, where it went on to win the Palme d'Or before being nominated for several Oscars.