A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives.A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives.A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives.
The point is how to have the lesson, for instance that love redeems, which we know in words but often eludes us in life as experience that needs no explaining beyond itself, as actual insight, as something which wrapping it around us we will know its warmth by simple feel.
Well, most serious films try something of the sort.
Usually how it works, is that there is an interplay of 'hard' and 'soft' elements. Hard would be all the stuff that particularize and discriminate, the more of these we have the harder it is to have unmediated insight because what happens in the story registers in a topical way, for instance a story of female Irish workers in the sewing industry of 1915. Soft is the flow of urges and self as one space for reflection, Malick's latest seems to be the pinnacle at around this time. Wong Kar Wai does it.
Usually, we start with some 'hard' particulars and open up in a 'soft' way, shedding self. But now and then, we get a major blunder like Cloud Atlas where the point is the soft insight of interconnected life but that is fenced on all sides by hard impositions, conspiracies, gunfights etc.
This is a weird, complicated narrative, unnecessarily so for my taste but once you see past the complexity, it is a simple thing. The idea is that there is something in nature which worms its way into the soul and is the cause of all suffering. Seemingly this is producing the anomalies that manifest in the narrative, if suffering sounds overly religious call it an existential dissatisfaction or malaise. We get to see the effect of this in a relationship between a man and woman, how what is eating them keeps tossing them apart and together again.
The 'soft' portion of the film is this tumultuous relationship, the point is it could be yours. We have digress, dissonance, reluctance, knowing and knowing the other so well you can't tell his memories from your own. Some marvellous birdwatching, love as agreeing on the same birds.
Kar Wai is king of this 'pure' emotional space, because he traces particulars faintly into the night, the yearning and alienation as something elusive in the air. Malick which this film reminds of, renders them as huge, abstract forces that buffet us, war or loss.
Here, the entire framework is schematic and 'hard' in the extreme, an actual worm, hypnosis, a sinister surgery of some kind, more clearly the man who keeps the pigs fenced and wanders around trying to 'capture' on tape the manifold sounds, which stands for a broader human endeavor.
I find that this approach cheapens and reduces. Suddenly it is about technology and greed, a clumsy set of metaphors.
So overall, this comes heavily on the side of a silly eccentricity. Next to Malick who is an influence in the solemnity of atmosphere, I was reminded at times of Synecdoche, Wax: Or the Invention of Television among the Bees, Southland Tales, even Begotten, all of them ambitious ventures constrained by a symbolic notation on the ideas.
The ending is so silly it has to be seen, the choice of metaphors is the most ludicrous since Cremaster which all but destroys the film.
- May 21, 2013