Terrence Malick’s latest feature, Song to Song, clarifies the experimentation of his previous two films, To the Wonder and Knight of Cups. Those films were defined by formal boundary-pushing, but never quite cohered into something memorable for me. Song to Song takes the romantic interrogation of the former and the beautiful ennui of the latter, then offers something with more precision and purpose than either. There’s not a conventional narrative (this is still Malick) but the trademark ethereal poetry of the director’s aesthetic isn’t, thankfully, obscured by vagueness – a complaint I could direct at his last two films.
The storyline is relatively straightforward: a thin web of love triangles and infidelity that branches out before narrowing into love story. But this is also a music film: a film filled with music, with musicians, with people “living from song to song, from kiss to kiss.” Song to Song resonates with the way music feels. How a great song sings with the time we first heard it, that moment of sex or dance or sadness. At its best, it captures the wistful, bittersweet recognition of hearing a new song and recognising that one day this moment, too, will be but a memory.