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The New World (2005)

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Jared Wilson of World gives it an A.

Unfortunately, this only shows up on their online blog. Andrew Coffin in the magazine was far less enthusiasic.

excerpt:

The New World is not a conventional film, but then, this is not a conventional story. At least, not in the world of history uninformed about history books (as Ebert quite rightly notes). It is messy and beautiful and complicated equally by what we know and what we don

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

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

 

"Forget it, Jake. It's Funkytown."    

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You know, when previews for this movie first started showing up, I was completely unenthusiastic, but all the love for it has won me over (and comparisons to 2001 and Till We Have Faces sure don't hurt) so I think I'll try to catch it this weekend.


Scott -- 2nd Story -- Twitter

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I couldn't care less if it's "accurate," actually -- but I did always feel as though I were watching a kind of American myth that had been deliberately chosen because of its mythic quality.

I think this a really important idea that is central to the film. I need to think a little more about it though, but I just wanted to say I agree with you on this.

That opening - wow... I've never before cried in the first minute of a film, it was stunning.

Other things:

I didn't feel at all comfortable with "Pocahontas" speaking English. Particularly in the voice over. It jarred and it also had resonances that I'm not too comfortable with.

Got a bit tired of the whole "oh how I feel like the mother of the world, with two children fighting" thing. It bothered me that a 13 year old girl should be identified so much with mother/nature blah blah. HOWEVER, it was also incredibly effective - particularly by the time of her arrival in England. Mallick made me cry with a shot of her cartwheeling on a nicely clipped lawn, dammit, that's how effective it was - and I appreciate the intention behind it was a much deeper message (I'd go with Jeffrey's assessment here, though I think he's being somewhat harsh on Brokeback but that's another thread...). Still. It kinda annoyed me from time to time.

As for the conversion to Christianity, I didn't see it as such myself. The baptism seemed like another ritual the English were subjecting her to, like changing her clothes, but it didn't change her character. That scene also didn't convey as much personal meaning as the scenes where she performed her connecting with mother rituals (the arms out to the sky, swaying - they kind of reminded me of Pilates exercises). It was like the pilgrims owning of her, it was in name only.

Love love loved Wagner on the soundtrack. It was the perfect choice of music in terms of capturing the myth of discovery. Helped that I've been reading Rememberance Rock by Carl Sandburg for several months now (it's a big book, in every possible sense).

A couple of these things were also raised in Sight & Sound's review. It's worth checking out. For a good rendition of the counter argument (summed up by Jeffrey) check out Mark Kermode's slating of what is usually one of his favourite directors: the guy makes some valid points methinks. Funnily enough although I loved it I'm not entirely convinced. Contrary to those above expressing worry about changing their mind and loving it on the 2nd viewing, I'm concerned that I'll find it dismally dull and uninspired on the 2nd viewing.


"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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I finally caught this on Sunday, instead of the Super Bowl. If you care to read my rather lengthy response/interpretation you can find it here at my blog. This is the first time I've attempted something like this and would appreciate any feedback you professionals can give. :)


"Did you mention, perhaps, what line of industrial lubricants Jesus would have endorsed?"

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As for the conversion to Christianity, I didn't see it as such myself. The baptism seemed like another ritual the English were subjecting her to, like changing her clothes, but it didn't change her character.

I sort of thought this at first, but upon reflection, I've changed my mind. The baptism did mean something more, if only because we see Pocahontas truly happy in her marriage to Rolfe, and accepting of European culture, afterwards. I don't think that she's being "forced" to undergo baptism, because all along she has a choice in the matter. If she didn't want to be baptized and join the European culture, she didn't have to do it; she could've gone back to the naturals, though obviously not to her birth tribe. The whole thing comes as a result of her choice to love Rolfe.

I didn't feel at all comfortable with "Pocahontas" speaking English. Particularly in the voice over. It jarred and it also had resonances that I'm not too comfortable with.

Aggh, this bothered me too. I couldn't tell if it was the filmmaker simply "translating" her thoughts into English for the audience's benefit, or if Pocahontas really was thinking in English, but either way it jarred me. Also, when she comes to the fort bringing gifts of food and animal skins for the settlers during the winter, she speaks to Smith in English. I was reminded of how Tom Cruise just happened to learn to speak Japanese over the course of one winter in The Last Samurai (a film that I otherwise really liked). Implausible stuff, that.


-"I... drink... your... milkshake! I drink it up!"

Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood

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I couldn't tell if it was the filmmaker simply "translating" her thoughts into English for the audience's benefit, or if Pocahontas really was thinking in English, but either way it jarred me. Also, when she comes to the fort bringing gifts of food and animal skins for the settlers during the winter, she speaks to Smith in English.

Does anyone actually "think" in English? It seems to me that thought isn't a language at all. We use language to communicate and abstract our thoughts, and we may think there is a one-to-one ontological correspondence but try to convey the elusive particulars of a dream in language and you miss the whole thing.

So let me point out the obvious -- when we hear people's thoughts in language -- this is a longstanding literary convention, and not really that problematic. So having them in a "different" language, is not much of a jump for me. Does it bother you equally that everyone in Memoirs of a Geisha is speaking English?

counter-pedantically yours....

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So let me point out the obvious -- when we hear people's thoughts in language -- this is a longstanding literary convention, and not really that problematic. So having them in a "different" language, is not much of a jump for me. Does it bother you equally that everyone in Memoirs of a Geisha is speaking English?

I admit, in many contemporary films foreign languages are represented in English and it doesn't bother me (i.e., they don't speak Italian/Latin in Gladiator, French in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, etc.). And for the record, I didn't see Geisha.

I still don't quite like Pocahontas' English voiceovers though. I couldn't even say why, it just distracted me. I guess that I wasn't a big fan of the voiceovers in the first place anyways, though they didn't ruin the movie for me by any means.

And even without the voiceovers, there is still the matter of her learning English ridiculously fast, which is an annoying thing. They should have held off on letting her speak English until at least the John Rolfe sequences. I thought that part of the reason the relationship between her and Smith was so interesting was because they couldn't really speak to each other. Words were useless in expressing their feelings, which is a neat little romantic thing in and of itself. *gush gush*. :D


-"I... drink... your... milkshake! I drink it up!"

Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood

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For the record, this issue doesn't bother me at all. If she had "thought" in her native tongue, subtitles would have translated it into English, and there it would be. This isn't much different than what "dubbed" versions of films do, and while I prefer subtitles to dubbing, in this film it's not enough of an issue to bug me.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

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

 

"Forget it, Jake. It's Funkytown."    

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For the record, this issue doesn't bother me at all. If she had "thought" in her native tongue, subtitles would have translated it into English, and there it would be. This isn't much different than what "dubbed" versions of films do, and while I prefer subtitles to dubbing, in this film it's not enough of an issue to bug me.

There's a few reasons it bothered me. Firstly, as Jeff mentioned, her ability to speak English appears totally out of the blue. It felt unnatural and made me think about it. However, I concede that this may be deliberate, a tactic chosen by Mallick to breakdown boundaries of time to go with the eliptical feel to the 'New World' sequences or to empahise Pocahontas as the 'mother' who understands 'truth' that is able to rise above cultural differences. It also troubled me because of the implications of colonialism but I think the rest of the film deals magnificently with this and as such it becomes a deliberate statement though the validity of the statement still concerns me.

Jeffrey's mention of subtitles did make me think that the dialogue would be particularly painful if written down, whereas spoken it ain't necesarily corny (though treads a fine line). I still feel, however, that speaking in her native tongue would have felt more natural. I wonder, though, how much this is because of stereotypes of indigenous people as being in tune with the natural world. English FELT wrong (despite our rich romantic history).

Personally can't stand dubbing (will choose not to watch a film if it's dubbed) and I'm always suspicious of subtitles. That's what comes of being trilingual.


"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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There's a few reasons it bothered me. Firstly, as Jeff mentioned, her ability to speak English appears totally out of the blue. It felt unnatural and made me think about it. However, I concede that this may be deliberate, a tactic chosen by Mallick to breakdown boundaries of time to go with the eliptical feel to the 'New World' sequences or to empahise Pocahontas as the 'mother' who understands 'truth' that is able to rise above cultural differences. It also troubled me because of the implications of colonialism but I think the rest of the film deals magnificently with this and as such it becomes a deliberate statement though the validity of the statement still concerns me.

I think you've answered your own question admirably. We notice that Pocahontas/Rebecca is speaking English because all the other "naturals" use their own, often untranslated, language. But Malick is trying to emphasize her "otherness" to both cultures. She is an example of what Frank Waters would call a "psychological mestizo": those rare persons who can bridge gulfs of cultural alienation and remain resolutely individual, not ever fully integrated into either the repressed culture or the dominant one. And I think that this story can be read, like the Thin Red Line, as myth of individuation by often painful dialectical contrast with one's surrounding environment. Rebecca succeeds in navigating the two "New Worlds", she recognizes the same "mother" under the two faces of the world, the natural and the artificial. In contrast, John Smith remains trapped in a reverie, a false dream of his own making.

Edited by goneganesh

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She is an example of what Frank Waters would call a "psychological mestizo": those rare persons who can bridge gulfs of cultural alienation and remain resolutely individual, not ever fully integrated into either the repressed culture or the dominant one.

This makes sense to me, and perhaps explains one reason why her voiceovers didn't bother me, either. I was also reminded of another, similar character in Malick's Days of Heaven, the girl "Linda," whose semi-improvised commentary provides an earthy, detached counterpart to the ethereal imagery of the landscapes and wrenching passions of the other characters. "Pocahontas," however, is a much more integral character to The New World.

Edited by BethR

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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I have been listening to the James Horner soundtrack for this film quite a bit over the past couple of months, and it's an interesting experience, since much of it was apparently shelved by Malick in favour of existing classical tunes; in other words, much of the music on the album isn't in the film at all. But I find the music captures the spirit of the film very well, and I am particularly drawn to certain pieces that I associate with the third act's depiction of the mature love between Rolfe and Rebecca. For whatever that's worth.

I do love the way Malick uses Wagner etc. in the film, though. Pity it isn't on the CD.

gigi wrote:

: There's a few reasons it bothered me. Firstly, as Jeff mentioned, her ability to speak English appears totally

: out of the blue. It felt unnatural and made me think about it. However, I concede that this may be deliberate,

: a tactic chosen by Mallick to breakdown boundaries of time to go with the eliptical feel . . .

Very possibly. I mean, if a recognizable actor like Ben Chaplin shows up in only one or two shots, and without any dialogue to speak of either, then you know right away that lots of things took place IN THE DRAMA that were cut out of the film, and likewise there must be even more things that took place OUTSIDE THE DRAMA that we are not privy to either. There's something elliptical about the film already, just in those kinds of details. I suspect most conventional filmmakers, if they had hired a known actor and then discovered that they were going to cut almost his entire role, would probably try to hide the fact that they had hired him in the first place, by cutting his footage out of the film altogether. Not so Malick.

As I have said in this thread and elsewhere, Malick is not very interested in conventional dramatic techniques; e.g., when the mutiny takes place at the fort, it's over in a shot (both in terms of gunpowder and in terms of cinematic technique), and Malick doesn't even TRY to underscore this plot point with any of the usual cinematic conventions (e.g. close-ups, music, etc.). Likewise, just as Malick does not underscore what is already there in front of the camera, he apparently doesn't feel any particular need to put certain things there in front of the camera at all!

goneganesh wrote:

: Rebecca succeeds in navigating the two "New Worlds", she recognizes the same "mother" under the two

: faces of the world, the natural and the artificial. In contrast, John Smith remains trapped in a reverie, a

: false dream of his own making.

Brilliantly put. Of course, I imagine there are problems in identifying the Natives with "natural" as opposed to "artificial", when of course there is much about their culture that IS artificial. Indeed, one could argue that Smith's problem is that he falls under the spell of their artifice and mistakes it for nature -- from his "baptism" scene at the chief's lodge through to the various other rituals he participates in, along with the clothing and trinkets and face paints he tries on and whatnot. Indeed, Smith's utopian vision of the Native people is, itself, an artifice, a creation of his own mind, rather than a reflection of their actual nature.


"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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Of course, I imagine there are problems in identifying the Natives with "natural" as opposed to "artificial", when of course there is much about their culture that IS artificial. Indeed, one could argue that Smith's problem is that he falls under the spell of their artifice and mistakes it for nature -- from his "baptism" scene at the chief's lodge through to the various other rituals he participates in, along with the clothing and trinkets and face paints he tries on and whatnot. Indeed, Smith's utopian vision of the Native people is, itself, an artifice, a creation of his own mind, rather than a reflection of their actual nature.

You're right. I was thinking of the words in quotes. For Malick, the whole concept of the "New World" smacks of weltschmerz. But I think that Malick knows that is also the knee jerk response of the modern audience, conditioned by a 250 year diet of Rousseau instead of Hobbes. He's suggesting that Smith and Newport packed that Eden idea along with their baggage. And it's also interesting that we get that glimpse of Smith amid all the "natural spectacle" of the northward passage, and that leaves him cold. And this suggests that Pocahontas/Rebecca is central to that illlusion. That she is the "medium" that allows people to really see the world. And the audience too. So it's quite a trick when he takes the audience from the dingy port to the marvels of the King's chamber, where every image is carefully doubled. The King's Hall/Powhatan's Lodge -- The Charnel House with the idols/The Stained Glass Chapel, and the trees with the topiary.

Edited by goneganesh

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She is an example of what Frank Waters would call a "psychological mestizo": those rare persons who can bridge gulfs of cultural alienation and remain resolutely individual, not ever fully integrated into either the repressed culture or the dominant one. And I think that this story can be read, like the Thin Red Line, as myth of individuation by often painful dialectical contrast with one's surrounding environment.

Dude - that's some interesting stuff that's got me thinking. (Quick search for Frank Waters on wikipedia got me nowhere. Am I missing something?)

I mean, if a recognizable actor like Ben Chaplin shows up in only one or two shots, and without any dialogue to speak of either, then you know right away that lots of things took place IN THE DRAMA that were cut out of the film, and likewise there must be even more things that took place OUTSIDE THE DRAMA that we are not privy to either. There's something elliptical about the film already, just in those kinds of details. I suspect most conventional filmmakers, if they had hired a known actor and then discovered that they were going to cut almost his entire role, would probably try to hide the fact that they had hired him in the first place, by cutting his footage out of the film altogether. Not so Malick.

Yeah although I'd also be interested to see how much footage actually got chopped before declaring Ben Chaplin's brief appearance to be a stylistic choice. Still, it wouldn't be out of character for Malick. Love Ben Chaplin. Much underused and always effective.

Edited by gigi

"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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Dude - that's some interesting stuff that's got me thinking. (Quick search for Frank Waters on wikipedia got me nowhere. Am I missing something?)

Frank Waters is/was a novelist, historian and amateur ethnologist and mystic. He wrote The Woman at Otowi Crossing and The Man Who Killed the Deer. The section on psychological mestizos is in his study of the Puebloan and Navajo Cosmology and ritual: Masked Gods.

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There are only two other films that compare to this film in terms of artistry, ambition and acheiving that ambition, and those films are 2001: a Space Odyssey and L'Avventura. I think I like The New World the best, mainly because of Malick's vision and themes in this film. It's a work of art of the highest order, and should be seen on the biggest screen with the best sound system possible. The composition, cinematography, editing, sound and score all come together wonderfully. But it's not just the images that are poetic and beautiful, but the ideas and meaning that is conveyed by the poetry and cinema. I'm not finished writing all my thoughts down yet, so I'll try to post back when I have time. Just a wonderful film in a class by itself, and one of the best aesthetic experiences I've ever had. I'm glad there are other people who are enthusiastic about this film.

But what's this about two different versions? I'm really aghast about this. I have no idea which version I've seen, but I have seen in February, so I assume I saw the shorter version. Has anyone seen both? What's the difference? Is the second version truly Malick's version, something he preferred? Dang, I'm really frustrated here folks.

Oh, can someone tell what are the other two films Malick is working on?

Edited by Jazzaloha

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To sum up details from earlier in this thread:

You saw the short version.

The long version only screened for critics in a few cities in December and then was taken away.

There will be a new (third) and longer version on the DVD.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

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

 

"Forget it, Jake. It's Funkytown."    

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Martha Bayles heaps praise on certain aspects of the film, before turning on the finished product (subscription required):

But film is not just a visual art. It's also a narrative art. And while Malick has hold of a terrific yarn (at least, Captain John Smith thought so when he invented parts of it), this film tangles the spinning of it. ...

For all his cinematic gifts, Malick seems somewhat lacking in the one thing most needful: historical imagination. Somewhat, not totally. ... The New World ... goes from overripe romanticism to something more sober and ultimately moving--then (unfortunately) back to romanticism. It should have quit while it was ahead.

love scenes are served just the way a certain middlebrow audience prefers, with a dollop of Mozart on top and a sprinkling of bad poetry:

Love, . . . shall we not take what is given?

. . . There is only this. All the rest is unreal.

Father, where do you live? In the sky, the clouds, the sea?

Show me your face, give me a sign . . . We rise, we rise.

I gag, I gag. It is possible that the hard-charging Smith was stopped in his tracks by unexpected tenderness for this almond-eyed Lolita. And it is possible that Pocahontas, by all reports an extraordinary individual, was a Kierkegaardian animist before she became a good Anglican. But, please. When such characters speak, they need to sound as though they are living in their own time, not ours. ...

"Did you find your Indies?" she asks Smith before they part. He gives her a long look, then says, "I may have sailed right past them."

Cut, that's a wrap. No need for Smith's next line: "I thought it was a dream, what we knew in the forest. But it was the truth, the only truth."

Romance isn't the only truth here; that's the whole point. When Malick re-edits this film for DVD, the word is that he plans to make it longer. Great, if this means further development of the clash between the English and the Powhatan, and more lingering visions of strange worlds. But please, cut the New Age mush. It's important when you have a great story not to sail right past it.


"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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Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: The long version only screened for critics in a few cities in December and then was taken away.

Not quite true. Only in a few cities, yes. Only for critics, no. The long version was shown to the public for about a week, albeit only in Los Angeles and perhaps a few other places, beginning in the last weekend of December, I think.

Martha Bayles wrote:

: But film is not just a visual art. It's also a narrative art.

False. Or, rather, it's only narrative if the makers of any particular film decide it's narrative.

Film is LINEAR, yes. But NARRATIVE, not necessarily.

: Father, where do you live? In the sky, the clouds, the sea?

"Father"? Why do I not remember this word from the long version? (It might have been there -- I don't assume my memory is exhaustive -- but this line still jumps out at me, now.)


"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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So does anyone know which is Malick's final and preferred version? That's the one I want to see.

I also agree with Peter that films do not need to have or be about a strong narrative. I don't even know if they have to be linear, depending what we mean by that.

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I'm guessing that by "linear" Peter merely means that every film has a particular sequence that unfolds in time, starting at the beginning and going to the end, with each shot following the preceding shots and preceding the following shots.

When we speak of films being "non-linear," this probably means that some OTHER time line -- say, the chronological sequence of events in the life of Charles Foster Kane -- have been disrupted and subordinated into the artistic sequencing of the film. Strictly speaking, though, the film itself remains "linear" -- unless of course we break it up by watching it out of order, skipping around from one scene to another, et.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Got it. Films are linear in that scenes follow one another in a particular sequence, even if they occur in different times. Still. there's at least one film that sort of breaks that down. I'm thinking of Last Year at Marienbad. Nevermind, this is totally off topic.

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Sundered wrote:

: Somebody already pointed out that Smith observes the lack of jealousy in the Natives just as Pocahontas'

: former flirtation looks wistfully at Smith/Pocahontas.

By the way, on a second viewing I discovered that her "flirtation" wasn't a boyfriend or suitor at all, but her brother. He calls her "sister" in thei first scene together. So his "look" when Smith and Pocahontas are a'courtin' has more to do with protectiveness than jealousy, I think.

I also discovered more and more ways in which Pocahontas's experience of the English mirrors Smith's experience of the Naturals. In fact, Pocahontas even says some things that idealize the English in much the same way that Smith idealizes the Naturals. I think this mirroring is very deliberate, and that Malick's very premise is that each world is new to the other, and the same basic human tendencies for evil and the same longing for Eden, for restoration, for redemption surges to the fore on both sides.

I talked with someone close to Malick yesterday, and he confirmed that the DVD will include the theatrical version AND a new three-hour cut in order to reveal the complexities of the other characters. I cannot wait.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

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

 

"Forget it, Jake. It's Funkytown."    

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Sundered wrote:

: Somebody already pointed out that Smith observes the lack of jealousy in the Natives just as Pocahontas'

: former flirtation looks wistfully at Smith/Pocahontas.

By the way, on a second viewing I discovered that her "flirtation" wasn't a boyfriend or suitor at all, but her brother. He calls her "sister" in thei first scene together. So his "look" when Smith and Pocahontas are a'courtin' has more to do with protectiveness than jealousy, I think.

Oh my. Well, he's certainly pretty hands-y if they are indeed related. There's the one scene where they interact fairly erotically (when she imitates the deer). He also tries to touch her later on but, as she's with Smith, she rejects him.

EDIT: Wow, nearly everyone I've spoken to who's seen the film clarified that they are brother and sister. I interpreted those scenes as being v. flirtatious all the times I saw it. Looks like I was wrong? I'll pay special attention when I see it again.

And yeah, I definitely agree that Pocahontas is idealizing the English. She even goes so far as to be ashamed of her previous life, covering up her tattoos and ignoring a native that bows to her. That's a trait, however, that she eventually grows out of when she nods at another native on the boat to England.

Edited by Sundered

I reason, Earth is short -

And Anguish - absolute -

And many hurt,

But, what of that?

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Sundered wrote:

: And yeah, I definitely agree that Pocahontas is idealizing the English. She even goes so far as to be ashamed

: of her previous life, covering up her tattoos and ignoring a native that bows to her. That's a trait, however,

: that she eventually grows out of when she nods at another native on the boat to England.

More items to file away in my "Did I forget that, or was that added to the shorter version?" brief.

I really must see the current version sometime.


"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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