DocumentariesLondon Film FestivalMovie reviewsMovies

Voyage Of Time: Life’s Journey – Movie Review: London Film Festival 2016

12 October, 2016 — by Douglas Clarke-Williams0

It’s difficult to think of a filmmaker with a vision as broad and uncompromising as Terrence Malick. Voyage of Time, his magnum opus allegedly 40 years in the making, dispenses with such banalities as plot, character or dialogue to produce a sensuous experience which is at once a hymn to creation, the human imagination and cinema.

voyage time malick

There are certain films which it is fairly pointless to review. If you hear the words ‘abstract conceptual film about the birth of life and the oneness of all being’ you probably aren’t going to think “well, I’ll see how it’s doing on Rotten Tomatoes.” You’ll either be queuing out the door or snorting derisively on your way into a movie which doesn’t cut wordlessly between images of bacteria reproducing, collapsing glaciers, and mobile phone footage of ritualistic bull slaughter in India. But here we are nonetheless.

And ‘here we are’ is really the takeaway from Malick’s epic indulgence. Trying to cover a billion-odd years of galactic history over a 90 minute running time (45 minutes if you’re going for the IMAX version) is a pretty tall order. And it’s Malick’s constant insistence of the human element that gives it that crucial chink of accessibility. Between crystal-sharp imaginings of vast drifting cosmos and long-extinct creatures are dropped snippets of grainy footage – shouting Middle Eastern crowds, homeless people wandering city streets, an Israeli wedding.

voyage of time malick dinosaur

It’s a little on the nose, certainly, but then no one has ever really accused Malick of subtlety. But whichever way you want to see it – that the grandeur of the universe makes our petty problems insignificant, or that our conflicts are part of some great cosmic dance akin to the collision of stars or the whirling of black holes – these brief segments ground the film. They turn what could have very easily become an hour and a half of staring at a lava lamp into something with a little jump, a little movement and quickness to it.

Despite this it’s the last section of the film, in which a group of pretty ripped early homo sapiens journey across the desert and develop a concept of paradise in the process (maybe? Your guess is as good as mine) which is the weakest. Somehow, after watching jellyfish luminously pulsating through the ocean and volcanoes spewing smoke and molten rock into the night sky, a bunch of dudes fighting a leopard doesn’t have quite the same swing to it.

voyage of time malick space

Also worth noting is is Cate Blanchett’s rather ponderous voiceover. Even her dulcet tones struggle to elevate lines like, “Who are you, life giver? Light bringer?” beyond being exactly what they sound like. It’s the part of the film which grates the most after a while, but even then there are occasional moments when the poetic profundity and the awe-inspiring images on screen come together to produce moments that aren’t like many others you’ll see this year.

Much like the idea that screaming at a cup of tea for a million years will heat it to boiling point, this film will probably produce enough midnight dorm room utterances of “Duuuude” for the cumulative energy to light your joint. But that’s underselling it. This is a flawed but fantastically ambitious film by a director whose personal vision extends far beyond the bounds of almost any other filmmaker working today.  4/5

Keep up with the latest from LFF2016 in our London Film Festival reviews section, including subversive slasher Lake Bodom.

Voyage of Time: Life's Journey

Leave a Reply