Thursday, November 20, 2008

The New World

Since 1969 Terrence Malick has only directed five movies and written less than a dozen; as such when he does make a movie I tend to pay attention. His last movie was The New World. Malick is an eccentric filmmaker, one known for tackling subjects differently than anyone else, and actually making his movies in ways no one else ever would. The New World is a great example of this; Malick released the movie, then at least once pulled all the prints, had the film re-edited and released the film again. This second version is the version on DVD and the version that I saw.

The New World is the story of the Jamestown settlers that came to Virginia in 1607, primarily the story is about Pocahontas and her encounter with John Smith all the way through her death when she marries John Rolfe. The story is not told in a traditional way; there is very little actual dialogue, most of the film’s dialogue is told through voice over, and that switches between Smith, Rolfe and Pocahontas. The film is a beautiful character piece on all three characters, but as Pocahontas ties them all together she is really the focus of the film.

What I enjoyed about The New World is really what I enjoyed about Malick’s other films like The Thin Red Line. Malick really likes to let his stories weave together almost on their own and you discover the characters as they discover themselves - it almost feels as though he is shooting so much he only really knows what the film is going to be after he is done editing. I also like that Malick makes the landscape just as much a part of his films as the characters are – he shoots things that you would never consider shooting.

One of the most beautiful things about the piece is how the music fits seamlessly into every inch of the film. As there is very little dialogue the movie becomes about the visuals and the sound, the film truly feels as though it was edited to music instead of having the music placed in the film – knowing how Malick works I wouldn’t be surprised if that were actually the case.

The only downside to The New World is that like all of Malick’s movies it feels very long, and can be hard to get into if you are not used to Malick’s filmmaking style. However, seeing Colin Farrell and Christian Bale in the same movie might be worth it for some people.

Director & Writer: Terrence Malick
John Smith: Colin Farrell
Pocahontas: Q’orianka Kilcher
John Rolfe: Christian Bale
Captian Newport: Christopher Plummer

John Smith: If only I could go down that river. To love her in the wild, forget the name of Smith. I should tell her. Tell her what? It was just a dream. I am now awake.

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