Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience is the 45 minute version of Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey, written and directed by Terrence Fucking Malick; a 30 year labour of love.
We watched the shorter version in the IMAX theatre where Sean watched Spider-Man 2 with a girl named Tall, Stupid Rebecca. Did you guys know Sean dated other women before me? How rude. But he did, apparently, when he used to live in the fine city of Toronto (and by the way, I also lived here at the time, and yet: Rebecca BitchFace. I’m sure she’s a lovely girl.) Where was I? Oh yes.
It takes a special brand of masochism to attempt a Terrence Malick flick as your fourth film of the day, and yet there we were, sitting in the same seats where Sean once fumbled an “accidental” boob graze of another woman’s tit. I KNOW YOUR MOVES, SEAN. Ahem. I digress.
Voyage of Time is billed as an examination of “the origins of the universe, the birth of stars and galaxies, the beginning of life on Earth and the evolution of diverse species” but that’s COMPLETE HORSESHIT. Calling it a documentary at all feels like a stretch. Or, you know, a flat out lie. But it is the movie Terrence Malick was born to make. His feature films tend to be languorous, dreamy imagery interspersed with the vaguest tendrils of plot. Voyage of Time is all the imagery and none of the plot. It’s loaded up with his signature “sun flares through a leafy tree” but these alternate between CGI renderings of what Terrence Malick thinks the beginnings of life might have looked like. Terrence Malick is many things, but: astrophysicist? Nope. He’s definitely got some scientific advisers on board but the result isn’t science at all. It’s conceptual; more contemplative than comprehensive. No science teacher will ever show this in class – but a yoga teacher might. Getting the gist? It’s a thing of beauty, often thoughtful, but far from educational.
Brad Pitt narrates, often in such a way that you can hear the italics in his voice. It’s like he’s reciting poetry with his eyes closed (Cate Blanchett narrates the longer version, for some reason). I tried very hard not to snort because the director of photography was sitting directly behind me, and that’s a lot of pressure. I felt sometimes that I should sigh appreciatively just so that he didn’t get a complex. Or lean back for a high five every time there was a sun-dappled field or rays of sunshine peaking from between limbs of a majestic tree.
It’s obvious even from Malick’s narrative films that he has a thing for nature and philosophy and theology, for lack of a better word. The pace of the movie is soulful, at the rate of about 1 fact per 1-2 minutes of silent reflection.
Did I enjoy it? Well, fuck. It is an experience. Plus, making it to the end of any Malick movie is an accomplishment, almost equal with having climbed Everest. It’s definitely CV-able. And he did raise a question I’ll be chewing over for days to come. Most documentaries in the vicinity address life – what, where, when, why. But Terrence asked about death – when did death first appear? And you know what? Not only do I not know the answer, I didn’t even know to ask the question. We think of life and death as inseparable, but who’s to say? Life’s first ambition is to go on living, and maybe that’s exactly what it did. Until. Until what? I don’t know. Neither does Malick, but at least he’s asking, and you know he’s asking in the most magical way he knows.