Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey
“Mother. Last night I had a dream. I saw tiny microbes splitting apart. I saw grainy mobile phone footage of people from all over the world. I saw dodgy CGI dinosaurs. It was strange. Cate Blanchett was there. I don’t know what she was talking about. In fact, she wouldn’t stop talking. Nothing really happened. In its own way, it was kind of beautiful. But mother… What did it all mean?”
Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time has finally arrived, after seven years and a contract dispute. There are currently two versions: this one, 90 minutes long, shot in 35mm, and with Cate warbling poetry; and a shorter IMAX version, with Brad Pitt on soundtrack duties instead. Whether the latter will involve car chases is unknown, it’s probably safe to say that the longer version is definitive.
Described by Malick as “one of [his] greatest dreams”, Voyage of Time aims to cover no less than the entire history of the universe. It doesn’t quite manage it, but it makes a good effort nevertheless. In the vein of Koyaanisqatsi, there’s no fictional construct to tie things together; Malick begins with digital footage of homeless people fighting in the street, before setting up a big, National Geographic-style series of images, that see life go from exploding stars to molten lava to strange creatures in the sea.
While Koyaanisqatsi was an essay film, Voyage of Time is less focused. Malick keeps checking back in on his humans in between CGI detours, but it doesn’t seem like he’s all that interested. The point may be that, in the grand scheme of things, humans are but a brief blip on the timeline; that time will erase us, much as it did those before.
The issue is that it’s all too 4K to work. Say what you like about Malick’s directing style, but he’s gotten career-best work out of actors like Martin Sheen, Sam Shephard and Nick Nolte, to name a few. By dropping all pretences to fiction, the audience is never given anything to grasp on to during this wild ride through history; at least until the end, when humans finally show up. No surprise that this is the best part of the film – after all, photographs become more interesting when people are in them. Voyage of Time is frequently stunning cinema, but by Malick’s standards, it is disappointingly minor.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey does not have a UK release date yet.
Watch the trailer for Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey here: