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The New World (2005)


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Finished the shorter version last night. Not sure what was different than the original 2005 release (~ 20 minutes), but at the end of the film we finally gave up and turned on the subtitles. I simply could not understand more than 30% of Colin Farrel's dialogue.

Sumptiously shot, ploddingly paced, the film really seemed like an impressionistic painting of the Pocahontas story. I liked it a great deal more than the other Malick film I've seen, The Thin Red Line. I've matured as a viewer, so if I re-watched that film, my impression may change.

But it was only at the end that "The New World" got me--spoilers, of course, but its been out so long, it shouldn't surprise anyone.

Starting with Rolfe's comment to Rebecca that she's been put in an impossible situation through no fault of her own, he encourages her to meet with John Smith one more time to see if her feelings would be assuaged or reinvigorated. "I vainly tried to make you love me; no one can, or should, do that". And from a character who showed no guile, nor malice, the line came across stunningly graceful.

To find that she would discover that she truly loved Rolfe, and would at last be content in his love, was refreshing. And then, once Malick has your heart in his hands, he squeezes: as Rebecca's son has lost her in the game of hide and seek, he overlays a voice over from Rolfe announcing her death just a few short weeks later. Closing the film with a shot of Rolfe hoisting his son in his arms as the ship sets sail once more for America, and fading to simple shots of the Virginia trees, Malick doesn't stop squeezing until Horner's Braveheart themes begin to play again. But this time, no one cries "Freedom!".

Agghh! It could have been completely maudlin, but I think he pulls it off--he made me choke up, and its few films that can do that.

Edited by Buckeye Jones
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I just spent the weekend watching The New World directly on the heels of Badlands and Days of Heaven. Watching The New World as the end of a continuous stream of Malick really confirmed some thoughts I have been having about the film. Suffice it to say that the last few minutes of TNW are up there with parts of Zerkalo as the most effective filmed images I can remember seeing. They are pure thought in action and I can imagine Malick laboring over the precise sequence of the montage for weeks. There are a lot of similarities here between Malick and Campion's The Piano that could be made in terms of form, rhythm, and intention, as both seek to evoke a profound sense of the feminine as a conclusion. But Malick's does so without the nihilist decision made by Campion. I am entranced by the way the film erupts in song (and even dance) at the end in the voiceover and then simply dissolves into the natural cacophany in which it begin. By closing this film with that circuit of imagery that takes us back to the beginning it seems as if we may not have traveled very far. But we have traveled a great distance in terms of metaphor, geography, and relationship. A lot of this only works because it is Malick behind it all. Many complain that his voiceovers are trite, cliched, unnecessary. But of course the voiceovers in TNW come across this way. The story Malick tells occurs in an original narrative time, it is edenic, foundational, the first American love story. If it didn't sound cliched, it would not have sounded appropriate. By the end of the film he has earned the right to stick something like "Mother, now I know where you live" and expect us to appreciate it.

This is also the best film about America as an idea or an historical anomaly that I can recall. A lot of this has to do with Malick's known affinity for Heidegger, and I can sense many of Heidegger's famous criticisms of America in the subtext of the film. But then Malick overwrites these with themes and ideas that Heidegger's myopic nationalism (putting it mildly) wouldn't have permitted him to envision.

Simply too much to add here. Talking about this film is like talking about The Four Quartets or something, where exactly do you stop?

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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There are a lot of similarities here between Malick and Tamor's The Piano that could be made in terms of form, rhythm, and intention, as both seek to evoke a profound sense of the feminine as a conclusion. But Malick's does so without the nihilist decision made by Tamor.

Er ... you mean Campion's The Piano, about which you had many brilliant things to say IIRC. But you could throw Taymor's Frida in this sink as well; it addresses similar themes and territory.

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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Oh, thanks for catching that. But agreed. I have a hard time distinguishing between Taymor on women and Campion on women. Malick on the other hand... I really like thinking about the progression from Holly in Badlands to Abby in Days of Heaven to Pocahontas/Rebecca in The New World. It is almost like we can see one consciousness maturing in three different storylines, Pocahontas being the apex of women in a Malick context. Where other directors, Campion and Breillat for example, regress in their presentation of the female gender in order to make their points (they become successively weaker, lacking more control, more objectified), Malick's feminism directs us to more powerful conceptions of male and female gender. His is a feminism to espouse.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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I can't wait to read your film-think piece on The New World, Michael. ;)

Seems like you're halfway there already.

Edited by Overstreet

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Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Thank you for those thoughts on The New World. I revisit the climax to this film every few months, because as Jeffrey put it, it has restorative qualities.

"The greatest meat of all. The meat of friendship and fatherhood."

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Restorative is an excellent word for this film. I am refreshed by thinking of all the ways in which The New World is such a perfect title. Hopefully Tree of Life will be similar in its prophetic appeal.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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After further reflection, I think this may be one of the best films I have ever seen. It is up there with 2001 and Zerkalo, which I thought were insurmountable. But I figure that at least having something emerge on my top ten is worth a post.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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When I first watched The New World, Song of Solomon immediately came to mind. There's always something slightly embarrassing about reading Song of Solomon, which probably has something to do with how far we've strayed from the idea and practice of genuine romance.

I am continually surprised at the powerful effect this film has on people.

"A great film is one that to some degree frees the viewer from this passive stupor and engages him or her in a creative process of viewing. The dynamic must be two-way. The great film not only comes at the viewer, it draws the viewer toward it." -Paul Schrader

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That is a very interesting parallel, Nathaniel. I have always taken the voiceover as a Marienbad/Hiroshima sort of exchange, wherein Resnais would intentionally disconnect word from image. Much of Malick's voiceover has this same stilted relationship to his films, and we often either have to choose to either listen or watch as it is difficult to do both simultaneously. It is like trying to have two conversations at once, which is mentally impossible. Many people criticized Thin Red Line for essentially being two (or more) films at the same time. But that was kind of Malick's whole point.

As you point out, the film has some affinity to the process of reading Song of Solomon. And this isn't just in terms of the purity of romance and our Adamic tendency to turn away from its innocence. But Song of Solomon really is a voiceover of sorts, it is poetically disconnected from the events it is referring to. Man, especially towards the end of The New World this apt comparison reveals itself. Thanks for that.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Michael, have you ever come across any good pieces comparing Malick's first two films with his latest two? Whenever I discuss Malick, I feel as though I'm talking about two different people: the grim, deterministic, hands-dirty director of Badlands and Days of Heaven (we shall call him Terrence the Grey), and the awed, ethereal mystic behind The Thin Red Line and The New World (Terrence the White).

I tend to appreciate his early films more, wedded as they are to thrillerish plots that keep me interested on two different levels simultaneously. What's the key to appreciating late Malick? Is it simply a matter of letting go of the idea of narrative as a prerequisite for viewing pleasure?

"A great film is one that to some degree frees the viewer from this passive stupor and engages him or her in a creative process of viewing. The dynamic must be two-way. The great film not only comes at the viewer, it draws the viewer toward it." -Paul Schrader

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I haven't actually noticed many talking about The New World in light of past films even though there are a great deal of thematic and visual connections to be made. The great Malick essay online is the one at Senses of Cinema. It is an excellent companion to their other, more thematic essay. Both of these are pre-New World. Rogue has an excellent piece that does move from Badlands to The New World, whoever wrote it has a nice inside track there. And then there is Sterrit's piece. FWIW, I did write a bit about how Holly in Badlands, Abby in Days of Heaven, and Pocahontas are all the same figure, she has simply matured over the course of Malick's career. One can really sense this in his female voiceovers as well, a natural progression.

I think you are right about letting go of Malick's earlier reliance on narrative. Honestly, both Badlands and Days of Heaven are almost avant garde in many ways. They are laden with literary and cultural references, the constant voiceover takes us back to Resnais, he has an absurd control over camera placement and movement. So in terms of form, the early Malick and the late Malick aren't that different, lots of little moments where he devolves into abstraction before getting back on pace. I think the problem with The New World is that it is set in Jamestown, so it naturally raises all those questions about America and colonialism and all that jazz. So many critics got hung up on this and panned the film for not saying enough, or not being critical enough, but this is only because they failed to make it past the narrative component of the film. As it turns out, that narrative component is a bit of a tangent. Malick is not interested in Jamestown as a story about how awful America is, rather he is interested in Jamestown as an idea, a threshold into the "New World" in a philosophical sense.

To be totally honest, Nathaniel, I am not a Malick expert. I just got swept away about how clearly Malick's consistent philosophical voice rings through the film, one which I find compelling.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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WOOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Funny... I got an instant message, an email, a Google News Alert, and this thread-update waiting for me when I got back to my desk.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Hmmm. I'm curious as to why it's "Extended Cut" and not "Director's Cut." Maybe this is just a longer version, but not THE longer version that Malick himself was working on?

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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It's interesting that the press release would say there are 30+ minutes of "never-before-seen" footage in this version of the movie, given that it is apparently only 23 minutes longer than the original 149-minute version.

Since the 135-minute version ADDED some footage as well as taking out some footage, perhaps the 172-minute version removes some footage too while adding the 30+ minutes of new footage. There may be footage from the 149-minute version that will remain on the cutting-room floor -- and, who knows, it may be joined on the cutting-room floor by footage that was unique to the 135-minute version.

Or perhaps the folks at Warner have simply forgotten that the 149-minute version exists. Or perhaps they are trying to pretend that it doesn't exist. (Which reminds me: did anyone ever get that Italian DVD that reportedly had both versions of the film?)

Also interesting is that it seems this new DVD will have the same 10-part making-of documentary as the original DVD. On the flip side? On a bonus disc? Surely they can't be planning to put almost four hours of content on a single-sided disc.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Wilson Smith wrote:

: Can't say that I like it, it doesn't seem to represent the film all that well, what with the "action shot" of Colin Farrell valiantly battling a Native.

Kind of depends on what's in that half-hour of new footage, doesn't it? ;)

"Includes Bonus Digital Copy of the Film"! Wow, I know they've been doing that with action movies and with teen-oriented things like Juno, but this is more of an arthouse flick, and one that didn't do particularly well at the box office -- have they been adding "bonus digital copies" to other arthouse DVDs, too?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 1 month later...

I just caught "Days of Heaven" last night and was struck with the similarity between it and TNW, with 2 guys after 1 woman, the interplay with nature, the minimalist dialogue, etc. Beautiful film.

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I just caught "Days of Heaven" last night and was struck with the similarity between it and TNW, with 2 guys after 1 woman, the interplay with nature, the minimalist dialogue, etc. Beautiful film.

Lance, I'm curious to know if, having now seen Days of Heaven, you think The New World represents a step forward for Malick, or if he was mostly repeating himself.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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FWIW Christian, I am pretty sure that Badlands, Days of Heaven, and TNW are all variations on the same theme. Malick has always been really stuck on a particular idea, which is okay, as it is a very good idea.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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I just caught "Days of Heaven" last night and was struck with the similarity between it and TNW, with 2 guys after 1 woman, the interplay with nature, the minimalist dialogue, etc. Beautiful film.

Lance, I'm curious to know if, having now seen Days of Heaven, you think The New World represents a step forward for Malick, or if he was mostly repeating himself.

IMO, The New World is certainly a step forward. Sure, there is a definite repetition happening within the work, but its a subtle progression of thought, pursuing a singular idea that's been with him from the start. And that idea primarily comes from the Austrian philosopher Wittgenstein, who one could argue is Malick's true muse. There is no coincidence that Caviezel's character in The Thin Red Line is named Private Witt, BTW. Malick is wholeheartedly on the Wittgensteinian page. Here's a snippet from Wikipedia about Witt's main thoughts:

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

In rough order, the first half of the book sets forth the following theses:

The world consists of independent atomic facts

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