- The New World is still only Malick’s fourth film to date in 2005 even if it is a whopping thirty-two (32) years since his debut Badlands. The themes and aesthetics are the same.
- It is not just Lubezki on board with the talented crew. Jack Fisk is back as Malick’s production designer, James Horner does the score (though we’ll get to his achievement here later) and the rest of the cast and crew has talent all over the place. Christopher Plummer publicly bitched about Malick cutting him out (and if he’s mad, how about how little great actors like David Thewlis and Wes Studi are used?), and if you blink, you’ll miss talents like Ben Mendelsohn and Jonathan Pryce.
- The New World begins with a look at one of Malick’s Edens on earth. Opening on amalgam of nature arrangements and a reflection in the water. Pocahontas and the Algonquins (or naturals, as they are often called in the film) are swimming and playing in the water. There is a voice-over established early as part of the form (sort of poem to mother earth). Next, the ships arrive carrying John Smith and the English. The arrival is glorious. This is accompanied by Wagner’s Vorspiel to Das Rheingold. This is the most important music in The New World (despite contributions in other parts of the film from James Horner and others). Malick reuses Wagner’s piece here a few times sublimely later in the film. It is just a wall of sound- it has the scales with the horns. When you pair that with the awesome imagery- it does feel like heaven on earth.
- The message of the film is set from that opening. The English bring an element of war, fear, a certain raping of the land in comparison with the “naturals”. In luminous photography montage form (trademark to his style), Malick shows the English chopping down trees. And later, he shows them with boils, scabs, unclean, dying, disease, mosquitos, etc. Their little fortress they make is ugly, standing water and mud all over the place. “Damnation is like this” “a hell”. Greed. Searching for gold.
- Water on the rocks is part of the mix, along with magic hour shots, trees rooted in the water, ships off the coast
- Even when in the cave dwelling of the Chief- Malick and Lubezki have the natural light pour in through the openings.
- Like all of his previous films (Malick’s depiction of the Native Americans here is similar to those native to Guadalcanal in The Thin Red Line), there is often playing and a sort of frivolity of the characters in the montage combination (along with shots of nature, grass swaying). They are one with nature, and here Farrell and Kilcher’s characters teach each other their languages. Farrell’s Smith describes the Native Americans as “Gentle, loving and faithful”. He talks about his own resurrection because of them “I was a dead man, now I live”.
- Malick is a montagist (he shot over 1 million feet of film for this- he just shoots and shoots and compiles it later)—these aren’t really cutaways from the action at this point. This is his mode. The in-scene dialogue is largely dubbed (which gives him flexibility in the editing room), the priority is on the photography (which drive his themes), the voice-over (which, again- he can control before and after) and the actors are models. Malick often has the voice-over come in over the top of the in-scene dialogue to give you an idea of what he prioritizes here. This does not mean there can’t be good acting in a Malick film– it is just different from 99.9% of cinema.
- It is a credit to Kilcher and Farrell that you believe in this love story. And even though it is very elliptical in nature (due to Malick’s editing style), her grieving process feels real (I think the extended running time helps here).
- For Malick, it is always about the meeting of violence/sin (and I think “progress”) and the intrinsic beauty of nature- that is the duality.
- I will say that you do not sit up and pay attention to the voice-over like you do with Spacek’s Badlands. The voice-over is more poetic here- sort of part of the music if you will.
- Christian Bale does not arrive until the 120-minute mark in the director’s cut version. He plays John Rolfe He is kind, patient, a man of virtue. This love triangle feels similar to the Days of Heaven.
- Nearly the entire three-hour (director’s cut) running time is exterior photography. And again, although it is not all shot at dust— big, meaty chunks of it are (Days of Heaven’s running time is about half this overall). At the 150-minute mark, finally, Malick uses some artificial lighting with the meeting of the King and Queen.
- While in England, the baroque ceilings, the landscaped gardens—all worthy of praise in the design.
- The film ends on Wagner (brilliant choice), her passing, the child playing and then slipping into a kaleidoscope of water running through rocks, the sun, the trees swaying from a low-angle (an angle repeated often) as the final frame.
- Cinema has produced very few artists with an aesthetic dogma like Malick. On top of that, it is largely a visual artform and few (if any), have made films as beautiful as Malick has. This film may have been overlooked by many in 2005—but as we get farther and farther away—the rarity of this achievement becomes clearer.
- A masterpiece
Is there a significant between the directors cut? If forced to pick which would you sugg
@James Trapp- this is from IMDB A 150 minute version of the film played for one week starting Dec 25, 2005 at two theaters in LA and two in New York, so the film would be eligible for Oscar consideration. Before the wide release in January, Malick re-edited the film, cutting it down to 135 minutes.
An extended cut was released on home video running at 172 min. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0402399/alternateversions
I’ve seen the film four times I believe now, two and two- the 135 minute version and the 172 minute version- but they were five years apart so I can’t compare the two. I just saw the director’s cut bluray — can’t go wrong there
Best film of 2005? I think this is better than Cache and A History of Violence.
History of Violence imo then followed by this and Broken Flowers
I think in this film Colin Farrell gives the best performance of his career.
@Ric– I admire the choices Farrell has made over the years. He has never become the massive star that was once predicted for him– but he works with auteurs constantly and clearly tries to make great films.
After just one viewing I do not think it’s hyperbole to say this may be Malick’s finest film, or at least on the level of his other big masterpieces. Of course, I will need more viewings and really planning on just re-watching in the next couple of days. There are some big names, certainly Farrell and Christian Bale (both great), yet it was an actress I had never heard of, Q’orianka Kilcher, who was a revelation. The scenes between her and Farrell are incredible in how natural they feel. There is nothing really new from Malick, it’s really just more of the same, but done in such a perfect way. The swimming scenes and idyllic life style is similar to the middle of Days of Heaven and the opening scene of The Thin Red Line. The low angle shots, shots of the sun, and nature montages are there as well.
I think one reason it works so well is that Malick films are such sensory experiences with limited plot, this clash of 2 different cultures and the language barriers creates an environment where both sides are bound in their understanding of one another and must rely more on instinctive learning.
It’s Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores are baffling to me, especially given how well all of Malick’s prior films had scored. It seems like it’s status is increasing over time though given its placement in many best of the decade lists.
@James Trapp- yes- ” It seems like it’s status is increasing over time though given its placement in many best of the decade lists.”– over enough time the best to seem to rise to the top
@James Trapp – I agree with all of what you said here. I have this and The Tree of Life separated by 10 spots on my all-time list so I agree that it’s a very distinct possibility that this might just be his best film.
@Zane – yeah I just looked at the Malick page, you basically have 5 of his films as top 100 of all time. Is he your number 1?
@James Trapp – He is not; I’m slightly lower on Days of Heaven and Thin Red Line then I have them listed on that page, but with some thought or rewatches I think I can move them forward. I do believe Fellini will end up with my #1 spot given that I’m higher than most on I Vitelloni, Juliet of the Spirits, Satyricon, and Casanova, and there’s nobody, not even Malick or anyone you can think of; who can direct like Fellini at his best. I also am not certain A Hidden Life will make my top 100 given that it’s already so padded out (I’ve reached 92 films) and there are likely a number of films that will take that #100 spot before AHL. Malick additionally suffers from pure lack of depth; I mean Bergman for one may have 10 films I eventually consider masterpieces (and he made many more than 10 films that are worth watching); Malick is working on his 10th film right now and may not make many more.
@Zane – interesting, I love I Vitelloni, La Strada, and 8 1/2. Need to do a more thorough study at some point.
As for Malick, I am excited for A Hidden Life, reviews seem to indicate a return to form after a series of weaker films.
At this point I am confident that Malick has 5 Masterpieces which puts him on a short list with just a handful of other directors.
Viewing # 2 just reiterates my original thoughts.
– I love the score, my favorite score of any Malick film, although composer James Horner had
some serious issues working with Malick ha, article below. To be clear I don’t think that takes
away from Malick in any way as genius artists can be difficult to work.
– I think this is Malick’s most beautiful film after Days of Heaven, although Tree of Life is right
there as well
– Does any director shoot swimming scenes better?
– Malick always seems able to create films where nature is the main character and people are
merely supporting characters, no different here
– As much as a enjoyed TTRL, this one felt more cohesive
– One of the best films of the 2000s