If people could be equated to love songs, each one we fall in love with possesses a trait that makes our heart-strings strum with desire. There’s a subtle harshness to some of them, a dreary sound of melancholia in the other. Some of them make our toes tap in instant joy and some just wreck us from the inside. Terrence Malick’s ‘Song To Song’ is about love. Love, as that fleeting feeling which is so difficult to understand that we often misjudge which song echoes with our souls. The question then comes to this – If our life is a turntable and the lovers are all on the same music record, which one deserves the needle drop?
Opening at the Austin-Music-Scene, the film is about Faye (Rooney Mara), a beautiful young woman who is involved with two men. Cook (Michael Fassbender) is a handsome music producer who has known Faye since she worked as a receptionist for him. BV (Ryan Gosling) on the other hand is a good at heart, joyous, struggling musician who has got a charm of his own. It’s clear that Faye is in love with BV but she can also not succumb the desire to have Cook take her into his wild world that is reminiscent to a sexual fantasy. The constant dilemma of being with two men burns Faye from inside. She can’t come to terms with herself and her constant disengagement into the true sense of love.
Faye’s confusion is a universal one. Most of us have been failures in love. We often go in and out of our memories as we move to the next person. And as we do, instead of being there for the half-of-one-whole, we usually stay in our heads contemplating what could have, would have, should have happened if we weren’t inside our heads so much. It’s a destructive feeling. One that constantly haunts us and makes us spend our time in self-loathing instead of focusing on things that really, truly matter. We get so addicted to love and desire that all the bad, good and average experiences seem like a good choice. We stand on crossroads that all lead us in a different direction but we don’t know which one will take us home. So we stand there as our neck twists and turns and the pearl falls down from the eyes.
Malick’s film is a representation of that very fleeting feeling of getting in and out of love, constantly trying to decide which one is worth the pain. Unlike ‘Knight Of Cups’ and ‘The Tree Of Life‘, this film poses a very simple structure. I have been a fan of the new narrative style (if you can call it that) which Malick has chosen. Malick’s striking visuals and Emmanuel Lubezki’s camera drift together in such a beautiful unison that it instantly becomes poetic and breathtaking. With ‘Song To Song’ which also features a 20-second twerking sequence by a woman, Malick seems to have gone balls out only to feel too self-muddling and banal.
The film’s prologue features instant cuts to random things, which I suppose are markings of the self-destructive nature of our thoughts, the incomplete memories and the leftovers from our experiences. However, it couldn’t hide the fact that it’s frustrating. The film borrows elements from Malick’s own films which make it dense but also self-imposed. For a film that uses songs and music as a metaphor, the choices of music are disappointing. It just seems that Malick put everyone he stumbled onto the Austin music scene into the film without making it seem as profound as ‘Knight of Cups’ or as emotionally investing as ‘The Tree Of Life.’
Malick is constantly questioning the destructive side of love in the film. He is also constantly asking us to give his working style a chance. He wants us to shed our skins and get ourselves in his subconscious that backtracks images as our thoughts run in different directions. At this point in my life, I am unable to hate on a Malick film. To me, he is a magician who throws me into a state that’s between my own conscious and his subconscious. With ‘Song To Song‘, I struggled to stay in that state even though it was constantly sucking me towards it. Maybe I’m not a fool for love, or maybe, I’m just a fool as they say.