A question that I put out there for my fellow critics is a simple one: should you take notes when watching a Terrence Malick film? I ask this, because I found it not necessary since one does not really “watch” a Terrence Malick film, as much as they “experience” them. Each persons opinion of the Badlands director depends on ones passion for cinema, attention span, and ability to dig into exactly what his movies say to you. I have gradually fallen in love with Malick's films, the more I've grown, and the more I've studied his art. In Song to Song, with his most talented cast yet, I am unfortunately disappointed. The visuals are still wild, often beautiful to look at, but with a disjointed narrative and lackluster score, Song to Song is one of Malick's weakest films.  

The setting is the rock music scene in Austin, Texas. Our focus of the cameras eye is Rooney Mara as Faye, who is a woman caught in a love triangle, with up-and-coming musician BV (Ryan Gosling) and record producer Cook (Michael Fassbender). Shot in a mixture of sequences are the embracing moments these characters have with one another. The names don't matter much, I'm not even sure I heard them mentioned, since these characters are very thinly written. Essentially, it is just these three actors playing themselves. Mara was once Fassbender's assistant, fell in love with Gosling, but continues to cheat on him with Fassbender. We also meet Natalie Portman as Fassbender's next love interest, Cate Blanchett makes a brief appearance as Gosling's second lover, and a plethora of rock stars, including Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, and a cameo from Val Kilmer, where he channels his inner Jim Morrison again.

t's hard not to compare this film to Malick's last piece of work- Knight of Cups, a film I loved, only this time, there is much more confusion as the pieces don't always fit together. Malick's films are rich with religious themes, where homes are like churches, reflecting the light like stain glass windows. The images are certainly beautiful, shot by Emmanuel Lubezki to perfection. What is lacking though, is the more concrete structure that KOC had, and a score to help build up my emotions. For a movie that is about the music scene, the score in Song to Song is tragically bland.

That is not to say Malick's efforts are a complete failure. I am always fascinated by his commitment, a total unwillingness to retreat from his style. He makes films that ask audiences to think for themselves, draw out the emotions, and live in these spaces. Sequences of Mara holding a curtain over her face is obviously Malick attempting to evoke images of the virgin Mary, or the way he has Fassbender constantly looking down at others, tempting with his wild stare, it's not hard to notice that we are involved in a dance between the devil and an archangel.

On it's own however, Song to Song is lacking the full beauty and grace that Knight of Cups achieved. Malick shot the two right after each other, as the images can seem to blend together, only making it more of a missed opportunity to include a score that would evoke the same emotions as I felt when hearing the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Hanan Townshend whisk Christian Bale away on his journey. I still believe Malick is a great artist, maybe too confident in himself, because giving Song to Song a bad review, was not a tune I wanted to sing.

2 Stars

Written by: Leo Brady  

Song to Song