Tuesday, May 16, 2006


If there is one type of film that is dying a slow death, it is the Studio Funded Big Budget Art Film. Terrence Malick's The New World is a grand feast for the eyes. It is a difficult film to describe however, focusing on mood over dialogue, image over narrative. It was shot almost entirely on location in a miraculously unspoiled part of Virginia and also in several British Locales. European settlers are dwarfed (and at times, consumed) by nature, while the native people gingerly rise up out of the flowing grass. Captain John Smith and native princess Pocahontas form a tentative relationship while the settlers settle and the natives watch. Nature figures prominently. The relationship is surreal, innocent, playful and occasionally ominous. The tone of the film is not quite what one would expect for this type of story, and the narrative structure is occasionally fragmented, but the mood of the first half of the film is a feeling of simply 'not knowing.' The future of the continent, and two very different peoples is a blank slate and nature encompasses everything.

For the second half of the film, the story takes some unusal turns (well, if you are not familiar with the history), with Pocahontas marrying and ending up in the British Isles. Her and her native escorts as dwarfed (and at times, consumed) in civilization as the settlers were in the Americas. There is dignity in the films conclusion, and complexity in Q'Orianka Kilcher's peformance and a wealth of lingering images. Yes, the film is in keeping with its reclusive filmmaker who has only made three movies since 1978. But they are worth the wait; The New World is quite possibly the best film of 2005. The Studio Art Film is Dead. Long Live the Studio Art Film.

For those who didn't catch this in the multiplex (and there applies to just about everyone (I saw it by myself in a large empty theatre!). The New World arrived with a wide release and went out of those same theatres in the blink of an eye. It just never found an audience) come out at 8:00pm for drinks. Trailers and showtime at 8:30pm.

Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio is the Wide Release American Theatrical Cut which runs 2h15m, There was a limited release cut which ran 2h30m and a rumoured 4 hour version of the film which have yet to show up on DVD.


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