Terrence Malick’s history of the universe flies by in under an hour on the giant Imax screen.
Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival a week after the 35mm feature film Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey bowed in Venice, the 45-minute Voyage of Time, The Imax Experience is not surprisingly the more visceral physical experience. It also is far less magical and mystical than the longer version, where Cate Blanchett questions the Mother about her purpose in the universe. Here, co-producer Brad Pitt’s matter-of-fact narration is stripped of spiritual connotations and seems aimed to dazzle a younger audience of children and students. As the history of the universe speeds by in spectacular full-screen images, the eerie, intimate, urgent need to know why, which was so unique in Life’s Journey, dissolves into a pure documentary and writer-director Terrence Malick’s voice is muted beneath all those superb visual effects.
Though the wonder of galaxies, nature and the planet Earth is magnified to room-size, the feeling of awe is undercut by a perhaps inevitably rushed quality. Let’s say that 45 minutes isn’t a whole lot of time to cover several billion years of natural history. Nearly all the shots used by editors Keith Fraase and Rehman Ali in the Imax film are present in the feature, which was long enough to give them time to construct a symphonic build-up to emotional peaks. Here, there is less music, more facts. On the other hand, the shorter format seems to follow the same structure of a chronological timeline, and no major sequence has been cut out.