It’s dark and silent. Cate Blanchett’s voice breaks the silence to address “Mother” …

“You… too great to see, no end to your birth. Eternal birth”

And so begins the questions of existence, of love, of eternity, of all known history.

Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time (2016) is projected onto a large screen above the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and MSO Chorus.

Hamer Hall’s stage is incredibly full of musicians, it’s exciting to see and makes you wonder how remarkable the impact such a group could have.

Depending on your perspective, the orchestra and chorus could easily feel underutilised in this piece, or their smaller-than-expected involvement could mean their contribution is more impactful. Truth be told, my perspective on this goes either way at any given moment. Particularly when the chorus is involved, that otherworldly sound leaves you wanting more.

The grand, sweeping music accompanying the beautiful film emphasises important moments and lets the imagery speak for itself when it can. This soundscape is full of compositions from artists such as Bach and Beethoven, and enhances the sense of history by borrowing excerpts throughout our own culture.

That being said, about half way through the film, the audience became noticeably restless with quite a few walk outs and bathroom trips. This restlessness detracted from being able to focus on the film.

It’s upon reflection that the impact of this film seems to sink in. While you’re watching it, it’s easy to feel like the imagery is a tad indulgent and artsy for “art’s” sake.

With this version of Voyage of Time, you’re viewing an artistic and philosophical take on what we know of the history of the universe. Cate Blanchett’s narration focuses more on the philosophical, though there is a Brad Pitt/IMAX version that focuses more on education. The impressive and extensive list of scientists and academics in the credits alleviates worries of the film’s accuracy. It’s fascinating to see how art and science can intersect in such a beautiful way.

Earth is beautiful. From magma and water’s conflict between temperatures, to the strange creatures that have and continue to occupy this planet, Malick finds the unique and mundane and makes it all captivating.

Malick lets you observe life from his aesthetically pleasing perspective. While at times it feels like a film made entirely of b-roll, gradually the pieces start to fit together and you sink into the slow pace. Producer Ronen Givony says in the program “people are hungry for this experience of something you can only see happen in person once or twice” and goes on to say that “movies are intended to be seen in a room of strangers”. Being able to slow down the mind of the modern person to engage in unfathomable beauty is a special thing.

More and more, films seem to have a higher impact when there is ceremony around it, when the experience is shared in a large room with strangers, as Givony said. To have a symphony orchestra and chorus to perform the score live enhances this experience in every way. We should all leap at the chance to have our film scores performed live. It’s an entirely different viewing experience.

This version of Voyage of Time is like if Cosmos was art instead of education. The scale ranges from cellular to universal. This film is 40 years in the making, and that is evident in this final product.

Voyage of Time was on at Hamer Hall as part of the Melbourne Festival in 2017.

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