The other night Terrence Malick’s new film Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey screened at the New Zealand International Film Festival Autumn events in Auckland.
Although I’ve found Malick’s films a little too long and ponderous, this one I enjoyed more than his others because of its sparseness and its lack of human narrative and human characters.
Voyage of Time is an epic and transspecies, transplanetary journey from the birth of the stars, through to the initial dividing of prokaryotic cells and the slow and triumphal march of life from primeval soups of billions of years ago. Malick takes you on a seamless fly-on-the-wall journey through the Permian era with its unique lifeforms that died out during the Permian extinction event. The dinosaurs of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Then the eruption of mammalian lifeforms afterwards.
The invention of agriculture and technological discoveries all occur in the blink of an eye – one frame of a field of wheat and then we land in a bustling Asian city. He throws out a lot of red flags here about our current and uncertain Anthropocene era -he more than hints at our immiment destruction.
That’s the quite disturbing part that stayed with me afterwards. Look at all of us in here with popcorn on our laps and wine in our glasses. Our neatly bought and sold consumable items in our hands and on our backs. When right here we are happily consuming the end of the world. We have witnessed the impossibly complex likelihood of our existence here and how easily we can all be dust tomorrow. And yet we’re, as individuals, powerless to do anything about it all.
Despite the unadulterated and stunning beauty of this film, with its translucent and floaty seas filled with jellyfish of many colours, this colourful confusing spectacle of life depicted on film is a mirror to our own insignificance and our own mortality and the true immortality of nature.
That’s what it’s all about. Yet my small human ego can’t let go of the idea of why I’m here and if I infact matter at all. Probably not.
A little bit of end of the world music