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Full Official Synopsis For 'To The Wonder' Revealed, Plus Soundtrack Details Including Songs By St. Vincent, Olga Kurylenko & More

by Kevin Jagernauth
August 31, 2012 5:09 PM
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To The Wonder Ben Affleck Rachel McAdams

We guess the mystery is over to a certain degree. With its Venice Film Festival premiere looming this weekend, details about Terrence Malick's "To The Wonder" have been coming in fits and starts, with many wondering about the course the story will take after the director has seemingly axed everyone from the movie. And while words on the page hardly convey what the helmer will conjure on screen, this latest batch of info is the best intel yet about the narrative path (such as it is) and surprisingly reveals that Malick must read Pitchfork or something.

The Film Stage has got their hands on the press notes for the film, and they are a doozy. The package reveals a lengthy, and probably spoiler heavy breakdown of the plot (using that term loosely) plus the soundtrack details. And it's here where things are perhaps the most interesting. Long a fan of classical music, Malick has songs by St. Vincent and Thee Oh Sees in the mix. Dude, do you have a Spotify account? Also intriguing is that Olga Kurylenko -- who is not cut from the movie -- has a song as well, singing "The Little Grey Wolf." Also interesting to note that composer Hanan Townshend only seems to have had one tune make the cut.

As we've previously noted, the film is Malick's first movie under two hours since "Days of Heaven," but it seems -- at least from the tremendous line-up of music and lengthy description -- that it will be one flowing piece of work, which we probably should've guessed. And as always, all bets are off until it unspools. But we'll leave you with this quote from Ben Affleck about the movie: "This pastiche of impressionistic moments, skipping across the character’s life and moving in a nonlinear way, mirror, in my mind, the way one remembers one’s life. It’s a little hypnotic and you’re a little bit in a daze — it’s more fluid than real life is.”

The synopsis is below with the soundtrack info on page two and for more details, hit The Film Stage for additional notes about the shooting and making of the film.

TO THE WONDER, written and directed by Terrence Malick, is a romantic drama centered on Neil, a man who is torn between two loves: Marina, the European woman who came to United States to be with him, and Jane, the old flame he reconnects with from his hometown. In TO THE WONDER, Malick explores how love and its many phases and seasons – passion, sympathy, obligation, sorrow, indecision – can transform, destroy, and reinvent lives.

As TO THE WONDER opens, Neil and Marina are together on the French island of Mont St. Michel – known in France as The Wonder of the Western World (Merveille de l’Occident) – and invigorated by feelings of being newly in love. Neil, an aspiring writer, has left the United States in search of a better life, leaving behind a string of unhappy affairs. Looking into Marina’s eyes as the Abbey looms in the distance, Neil is certain he has finally found the one woman he can love with commitment. He makes a vow to be true to this woman alone.

Marina, quiet and beautiful, with flashes of a mischievous humor, is divorced and the mother of a 10-year-old daughter, Tatiana. At 16, Marina left the Ukraine for Paris without a cent to her name. There, she married a Frenchman who abandoned her after just two years, leaving her alone with Tatiana in a studio apartment. Marina was forced to work a variety of temporary jobs to make her way. Having nearly given up hope, Marina is overcome with joy to be in love with Neil, her salvation from an unhappy future.

Two years later, Neil and Marina are living in a small town in Oklahoma, close to where Neil grew up. Neil, having given up his hopes of becoming a writer, has taken a job as an environmental inspector. Neil is happy with his work, but his love for Marina cools as she, for her part, is frustrated by the holding pattern she feels she is in with Neil. She fears her youth – and happiness – are slipping away. In spite of her anxieties about Neil, Marina initially feels at home in Oklahoma, embraced by the open space and sky, and soothed by the sounds that come from the wind harp that animates breezes into songs.

Seeking advice, Marina turns to another exile in the community, a Catholic priest named Quintana. We learn that Father Quintana has come to grapple with his own dilemmas, as he harbors doubts about his vocation. He no longer feels the ardor he knew in the first days of his faith, and wonders if he ever will again.

Professional life throws Neil into conflict as well, when he discovers that a smelting operation in town is polluting the soil and water and threatening the health of future generations. His concerns fail to persuade his neighbors, who depend on the smelter for their livelihoods. Under pressure to keep quiet, Neil must once again weigh the consequences of his actions. Neil’s doubts about Marina intensify. This, coupled with the fact that Marina’s visa is soon to expire, leads her to return to France with her daughter. In her absence, Neil reconnects with Jane, an old friend. As the two of them fall deeply in love, Neil finds this new relationship far less complicated. Yet when word comes to him that Marina has fallen on hard times and her daughter has gone to live with her father and refuses to have anything more to do with her, he finds himself gripped by a sense of responsibility for her wellbeing, and arranges for her return to the United States.

Neil’s entanglements with the two women in his life, and Father Quintana’s struggle with his faith, force them both to consider different kinds of love. Should the commitment they each made be undertaken as a duty, sometimes full of effort? Or should we accept that love often changes, and doesn’t always last? Can sorrow bind lovers more tightly than joy?

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  • Clara | September 1, 2012 8:04 PMReply

    Seems awesome! Can't wait to see the incredible and gorgeous Olga Kurylenko. I love her new TV show "Magic City"

  • grace | September 2, 2012 2:59 AM

    In no way biased

  • JD | August 31, 2012 11:38 PMReply

    Malick's got some tremendous music set for the soundtrack. However, I honestly don't think anybody will ever use Gorecki's Symphony No. 3 better then Bestor Cramm did in the Vietnam documentary, "The Unfinished Symphony".

  • jbean | August 31, 2012 9:53 PMReply

    that one still + synopsis + soundtrack = $

  • Oogle monster | August 31, 2012 7:36 PMReply

    If the synopsis is to be believed, Affleck couldn't have been cut from the film. Unless Neil is a symbol for something other than a man and in that case Affleck is voicing a tree...? A bird? A pelican?

  • Anonynouse | September 1, 2012 11:26 AM

    no, sir, the pelican will be in Knight of Cups.

  • AS | August 31, 2012 6:00 PMReply

    Sorry, I've liked several of Malick's films but this is a bridge too far. There's no way I could ever stomach this film.

  • AS | August 31, 2012 8:17 PM

    @Confused: Hyperbolic much?

  • Anonymouse | August 31, 2012 7:59 PM

    to each their own, AS, but the "seasons -€“ passion, sympathy, obligation, sorrow, indecision -€“ can transform, destroy, and reinvent lives," as well as the entire synopsis, intrigues me far more than repels. however, i can see why people are put off by this.

  • Confused | August 31, 2012 6:44 PM

    You've seen one image and read a synopsis. If you did the same thing for any other TM film, what might you say? Dumbest comment ever.

  • AS | August 31, 2012 6:25 PM

    "Malick explores how love and its many phases and seasons – passion, sympathy, obligation, sorrow, indecision – can transform, destroy, and reinvent lives." - THAT, plus Rachel McAdams, is why.

  • serpico | August 31, 2012 6:14 PM


  • cunterman | August 31, 2012 5:41 PMReply

    I hope we get a fucken trailer soon. Or some new stills. I feel like I've seen that single image up there more than my own mother in the last year.

  • wanderjahr | August 31, 2012 8:53 PM

    I didn't know what to think of the Tree of Life trailer when I first saw it. Looking back, all the trailer's for Malick's movies always seem to miss the mark a bit. But yes, I think my pants will suddenly fill with warmth once a trailer is released.

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