Review: Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey (2016)


Director: Terrence Malick | 93 minutes | documentary, drama | Featuring: Cate Blanchett (voice), Jamal Cavil, Maisha Diatta, Yagazie Emezi, Daryl James Harris II, Sebastian Jackson, Abraham Kosgei, Runa Lucienne, Theo Bongani Ndyalvane, Jejuan Plair, Gabi Rojas, Shaun Ross, Mechelle Tunstall, Sanetra Stewart, Blane E. Warrior II

Terrence Malick, chronicler of the inner consciousness, literally searches in “Voyage in Time: Life’s Journey” in higher realms. He does not aim his arrows so much at the inner emotions of man, as is always the case with him, but scrutinizes planet Earth. From birth to the inevitable end. The sizeable project, Malick worked on the film for over thirty years, recalls the opening of his “The Tree of Life” (2011). But where that film used the history of existence to delineate the position of man in it, the filmmaker in “Voyage of Time” sticks to a more general, but nevertheless atmospheric, explanation.

However, to give the film a personal angle, Malick presents the Earth as a focused thinking character, born from the mother of all creations. A consciousness, as it were, that comes to the viewer through a voice-over by actress Cate Blanchett, with lyrics that excel in both poetry and dullness. She sings about her metaphysical mother, her Gaia, creator of all life (and death). It’s a recognizable Malick approach that doesn’t quite work out here, however.

By emphatically presenting the Earth as a thinking being, it is, in a sense, humanized. The planet loses its autonomy because it is cast in a cultural mold. There is no room for physical and biological laws. The world around us becomes nothing more than a construction invented by man himself. Four centuries after Galileo, Malick puts man back at the center of existence. An ancient thought, based on false excellence.

But of course Malick does not work that one-dimensional. The premise of “Voyage of Time” is more interesting than that. Everything we have learned about the origin and development of the Earth stems from our own physical and mental development. The history of the cosmos is also a history of (human) consciousness. An awareness of the origin and, as the title shows, of the passage of time. Of the things that have been and that will be in the future. From start to finish.

It is reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s superior “2001: A Space Odyssey”, which to some extent uses a similar theme. But where Malick lets consciousness do the talking, Kubrick simply shows the emergence of that consciousness. As beautiful as “Voyage of Time” is, and the film indeed is, compared to Kubrick’s unsurpassed masterpiece, Malick makes some mistakes here.

Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey is therefore primarily a hypnotic rollercoaster through the history of time. A clever film, full of beautiful images of the cosmos and, perhaps more appealing to the imagination, Earthly forces of nature. In terms of content it is all a bit disappointing.

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