Filmspotting Forum

Filmspotting Message Boards => Marathons => Topic started by: Basil on April 06, 2008, 10:59:43 AM

Title: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: Basil on April 06, 2008, 10:59:43 AM
"If only I could go down that river. To love her in the wild, forget the name of Smith."

(http://i28.tinypic.com/2qch1jp.jpg)
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: chris on April 06, 2008, 12:15:58 PM
I'm gonna have to fight my Colin Farrell aversion on this one...  :(
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: Basil on April 06, 2008, 12:16:51 PM
I'll attempt to encourage you by saying that no later than halfway through the film, I forgot it was him in the role.
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: chris on April 06, 2008, 12:19:42 PM
Good to know... Honestly, I'm not even sure what the basis of the dislike is... I either haven't thought about it enough or it has no rational foundation..
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: Kevin Shields on April 06, 2008, 08:25:40 PM
I remember seeing this in January '06.  Though it was the 135-minute version as opposed to the NY/LA 150-minute version that was shown in December '05.  I was in awe of what I saw and I was floored from frame to frame seeing this film.

The way it opened as the opening credits died down, Richard Wagner's "Das Rheingold" was playing and the whole film has to be seen on the big screen.  I liked Colin Farrell in this.  I thought he was great as John Smith.  More than made up for his lousy performance in Alexander.  I also liked Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer, August Schellenberg, and most of all, Q'Orianka Kilcher as Pochahontas. 

It was Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki's cinematography that really did the film for me.  I'm glad he's working with Malick right now.  It was his most consistent and fluid film since Days of Heaven.

I wonder what was in the 3-hour cut of the film that was supposed to come out on DVD back in 2006. 
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on April 08, 2008, 09:48:35 PM
I just got through watching this film for the fourth time and must say it's still as good as I thought it was the first time. This is one of those films I worry isn't as good as I think it is in my mind but every time I watch it again all doubt is removed. Every moment of this film from beginning to end works for me and it's easily one of my favorite films.

There's this real poetic quality to the film that draws me into it every time. Lubezki's cinematography, fantastic locations, beautiful music and thoughtful narration all weave this elaborate poem that never ceases to leave me completely and totally enraptured. Malick's balance of nature, narrative and character make sure that the film never gets lost in the poetic quality. Initially it was the story that drew me into the film as a tale of love and land but the more I watch it the more I become involved with the characters and their emotions. While Malick's writing is good it's the performances that really clench it for me. Christan Bale and Colin Farrell are solid but I have to agree with thevoid99 and say that the best performance is Q'orianka Kilcher. She just has the grace and subtlety to pull off the role of Pocahontas.

I've also have to say that the last ten minutes of this film may be my favorite ending of any film. It just all comes together for me in that moment and is the perfect ending for both the narrative and the emotional of the film.
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: Basil on April 13, 2008, 11:23:45 AM
I really have very little to say about my experience watching this film; I was barely cognizant of any aspect of the plot. Had I not known beforehand, I probably wouldn't have recognized this as the story of Pocahontas. The entire thing entranced me, and until about the last ten minutes, I wasn't sure where I was or what was going on. Obviously, I was completely caught up in the images and music, so I didn't really have a chance to digest everything that was going on. Oh well, it was an awesome experience.
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: oneaprilday on April 18, 2008, 08:10:40 PM
I watched The New World in halves on two consecutive nights - I didn't do this intentionally, but in a way it worked because the film itself tells a story that takes place in two acts. And I am so very glad for the second act; the first act - while still classic Malick: amazing cinematography and music, beautifully edited, a truly visceral experience - really began grating on me in a few ways. While Badlands and Days of Heaven give us rather naive, simple narrations/narrators that provide often odd and interesting contrasts to the visuals, the narration of The New World's first act was so gushing, was so "profound," that I almost couldn't bear it. While the visuals of Badlands and Days of Heaven are not so much explained, or noticed by the narrators (for the most part), and the wrenching stories offer a compelling contrast to the beauties of the natural world, with The New World, it's almost as if Malick gave into the desire to tell us what to feel about the natural world through the vehicle of the Native American culture and its connection to the natural world, through Pocahontas's dancing, worshipping movement. (Yes, it and she were stunningly gorgeous, but her movements were telling me what to feel too much, too often.) The love story, too, between Smith and Pocahontas felt like something I would have revelled in as junior high or high school girl - so gushingly romantic: "O to be given to you, you to me. Two no more. One. One. I am. I am." Aaaaaack. It was telling me too much, and it was much more consciously poetic whereas the narrators of Badlands and Days of Heaven were so matter of fact, simple, understated, odd.

And again, I am bothered by what seems to me to be the romanticization of the Native American tribe. Echoing Witt in The Thin Red Line, Smith narrates: "They are gentle, loving, lacking in all guile and trickery. The words denoting lying, deceit, greed, envy, slander, and forgiveness, no sense of possession. Real, what I thought a dream." Are we really supposed to believe this is only Smith's vision as sdedalus said the romanticized narration Wit gave was only his, not Malick's? Surely, this is Malick's voice? Isn't he saying that a culture that is so close to and so in harmony with the natural world, is all of the above things Smith describes? Doesn't their culture reflect a kind of Eden paradise? If he isn't saying that, where in the film does he undermine Smith's statement about them? I have no problem with anyone saying that the indigenous cultures were more responsible with the environment or more in harmony with nature, but to say that made them more perfect human beings is grating. And it feels didactic to me.

Also, I'l buy that the colonists of Jamestown were miserable and did miserable things, but Malick paints such a horribly degraded portrait of them - unashamedly cannibalistic, irrational, chaotic, spouting religious vitriol (contrast the beauty of the Native American spirituality), foul - I was again irritated. Surely, there were some remnants of nobility left in them.

So much for the first half of the film. I went to bed exceedingly annoyed (even while I was affected by the stunning visuals).

On to the second act - Smith goes away. (Yay! no more gushing romance.) Rolfe arrives. I loved, loved the quietness and solidity of his character. And the slow growth of the relationship between Rolfe and Pocahontas was beautifully done. Some of the narration here I could have done without, but it certainly wasn't as gushing as it was earlier. I suppose one could argue that the Romance to the more quiet love is a portrayal of Pocahontas's growth into womanhood. I might be able to stomach the Smith portion if that's the case.

Because I do think if the film could be said to center on a human character, it centers on Pocahontas, on her journey - and I do like that. The title The New World becomes really interesting then - the new world is less about the colonists' idea of the new world but more about how the world changes, becomes new from the perspective of the Native Americans, and the new world is also Pochontas's introduction to England, a new world for her. I like that Malick de-centers our perspective - undoes the white, European ethnocentrism - it's not now about what the European explorers perceived as the new world. And while that element of the film could feel political and didactic, in fact, it doesn't. It's beautifully realized as I as a viewer slowly realize through which characters' eyes I am viewing the world.

So while I've spent a lot of time here complaining about the film's sentimentilzation and idealization in the first act, ultimately, I do like this film a lot - the performances were all so good (even Farrell's), I loved the pacing, and of course, I was rewarded once again by the amazing sensuality and beauty of the cinematography.
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: pixote on April 18, 2008, 08:29:13 PM
And again, I am bothered by what seems to me to be the romanticization of the Native American tribe. Echoing Witt in The Thin Red Line, Smith narrates: "They are gentle, loving, lacking in all guile and trickery. The words denoting lying, deceit, greed, envy, slander, and forgiveness, no sense of possession. Real, what I thought a dream." Are we really supposed to believe this is only Smith's vision as sdedalus said the romanticized narration Wit gave was only his, not Malick's? Surely, this is Malick's voice?

I don't know anything about it, really, but I would guess that Malick compiled such narration from historical accounts.

...Okay, a quick Google search led me to Frances Mossiker's Pocahontas: The Life and the Legend, where, in a paragraph beginning, "Elsewhere, inital contacts were idyllic...," the captain of a 1584 expedition is quoted as having said, "We have never in the world encountered a more kind and loving people. ... We were entertained with kindness and friendship and were given everything they could provide.  We found these people gentle, loving, and faithful, lacking all guile and trickery.  It was as if they lived in a golden age of their own."

pixote
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on April 18, 2008, 08:33:35 PM
And again, I am bothered by what seems to me to be the romanticization of the Native American tribe. Echoing Witt in The Thin Red Line, Smith narrates: "They are gentle, loving, lacking in all guile and trickery. The words denoting lying, deceit, greed, envy, slander, and forgiveness, no sense of possession. Real, what I thought a dream." Are we really supposed to believe this is only Smith's vision as sdedalus said the romanticized narration Wit gave was only his, not Malick's? Surely, this is Malick's voice? Isn't he saying that a culture that is so close to and so in harmony with the natural world, is all of the above things Smith describes? Doesn't their culture reflect a kind of Eden paradise? If he isn't saying that, where in the film does he undermine Smith's statement about them? I have no problem with anyone saying that the indigenous cultures were more responsible with the environment or more in harmony with nature, but to say that made them more perfect human beings is grating. And it feels didactic to me.
I always took it as Smith's view of them but we end up learning that they are just as capable of treachery when they kidnap and sell Pocahontas. I don't think he's saying they are better human beings as the Native Americans start that attack. In some ways I think Malick is trying to get in touch with nature and idealizes those close to nature through the eyes of his characters. Just my take on it.

BTW nice find pixote
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: oneaprilday on April 18, 2008, 09:13:37 PM
...Okay, a quick Google search led me to Frances Mossiker's Pocahontas: The Life and the Legend, where, in a paragraph beginning, "Elsewhere, inital contacts were idyllic...," the captain of a 1584 expedition is quoted as having said, "We have never in the world encountered a more kind and loving people. ... We were entertained with kindness and friendship and were given everything they could provide.  We found these people gentle, loving, and faithful, lacking all guile and trickery.  It was as if they lived in a golden age of their own."

pixote

That is really interesting! And yes, very cool find. Even if it does not originate with Malick though, it fits right in with Malick's viewpoint/voice which, ultimately, the visuals confirm and which lotr-sam offers in part:

In some ways I think Malick is trying to get in touch with nature and idealizes those close to nature   



I always took it as Smith's view of them but we end up learning that they are just as capable of treachery when they kidnap and sell Pocahontas. I don't think he's saying they are better human beings as the Native Americans start that attack.

Yes, there's that, but still, I think their actions against the colonists are portrayed justified (and we don't feel much pity for those nasty colonists, do we?) because the colonists are trespassing, invading their land; the colonists were given leave to stay 'til spring, and Smith agreed they'd go. They didn't, thus they were attacked. Quite sensible and possibly noble. Their selling Pocahontas is also in some sense justified - she put the colonist invaders above the welfare of her people (her father warned her about this).
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: oneaprilday on April 18, 2008, 09:30:15 PM
You know, I guess I could look at Malick's vision as just that - a kind of vision. Perhaps he doesn't truly believe the Native American culture was so idyllic and more fully human in actual reality, but with his work, he yearns for a world that is beyond ours, a world that returns to Eden in some sense. And I suppose that's what many of the early explorers were looking for, too, the fountain of youth, a place where one could begin afresh. And you're right, even if the Native Americans were justified in their attacks, Malick admits and shows us that Eden really can never be maintained or attained - but the yearning is still there. I can sympathize with that desire. I suppose I just don't like the classic kinds of cliches and/or binaries (white colonists bad, native peoples good) he, ultimately, doesn't avoid. (Is his portrayal really any different than Dances with Wolves, for example?) I want more subtlety from him, and I want something smaller - a yearning for peace and paradise that's portrayed in a much smaller and more complex way, say, as it is in Badlands and Days of Heaven.
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: sdedalus on April 19, 2008, 12:49:01 AM
I'm glad you like the second half, but I think you're selling it short.  You're right about the film's shifting perspective: Smith's (and Pocahontas's) idealization of the Indians in the first half is both historically accurate, silly, New Agey romantic and cliché and totally undermined by the second half of the film. 

Malick shows us the Indians through the eyes of the colonists, and then shows the colonists through the eyes of the Indians.  The trip to England is, for me, the crucial sequence of the whole film.  It crystalizes the idea that the meeting between the two peoples was a dual discovery of two new worlds.  Wes Studi wandering through the geometrically manicured gardens is as full of awe and terror as Colin Ferrell lost in the swamp.  This is a radical decentering of perspective in film, wherein the focus on contact between European and Indian is always the discovery of one by the other and where one side is always demonized (Dances With Wolves).
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: oneaprilday on April 19, 2008, 02:15:05 AM
Ok, yeah, I see what you're saying - the film is probably more complex than I was getting initially. I'll have to think about it more.
However, given Malick's use of/love for shots of the glorious beauty of the natural world, seen throughout his films, contrasted with the really very cold look at England's manicured lawns and sculpted hedges, I just don't quite see that the first half of the film, with Smith's and Pocahontas's vision, is so totally undermined. I think Malick still sees something more ideal in the Americas, in a culture closer to nature.
I could say, I suppose, that like Pocahontas's tight-fitting European clothes, which, in the end, couldn't hold her in - she dances away and discovers "Mother" even in England - the natural world of England ultimately can't be held in and "managed" either - it is still present and powerful. Still, a culture that tries to control it at all feels as if it's the lesser, the one that, as Wordsworth says (in condemning an industrialized society) is only interested in "Getting and spending" and with "Nature" is "out of tune." Wordsworth, interestingly, further says, "Great God! I'd rather be / A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn" than be in the society he lives in because those pagan societies at least worshipped the gods of nature - "Proteus" and "Triton" - they revered nature to some degree. Like Wordsworth, I think Malick is a kind of Romantic poet, who finds truth, wholeness, one's fundamental spiritual element in nature. Would you buy that comparison? And if so, isn't the more natural culture, the one that isn't forcing nature into submission, the more noble?
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: sdedalus on April 19, 2008, 03:29:29 AM
I don't know, maybe I'm allowing my own sensibility to override Malick's.  But I see just as much Beauty and Nobility in England as in America.  That's a necessary consequence of Pocahontas's pantheism: if God is in Nature, then she's in all kinds of Nature, regardless of how manicured it is.

I think the character of Rolfe is important here, as a contrast to the loser that Smith is, he shows that there's Nobility in Europe and not just smelly Romantic pedophiles.

I think Malick leans pro-Indian, but still, his film is probably the most balanced and respectful film on the subject I've seen.  Even Dead Man can't match it in that area.

Speaking of which, I want to create a Thanksgiving tradition of a double feature of Dead Man and The New World.
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on April 19, 2008, 09:56:52 AM
Think about the first violent encounter between the Native Americans and the Colonists. One of the Indians steals a tool and is promptly shot. Granted that's a bit harsh but it wasn't done unprovoked. I also think you can't sell short the fact that the Indian's kidnapped and sold one of their own. Yes, Europe still had slaves at this time but we didn't sell our own people. In some was I think the Native Americans are just as evil as the Colonists.
 
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: oneaprilday on April 19, 2008, 12:13:40 PM
I don't know, maybe I'm allowing my own sensibility to override Malick's.  But I see just as much Beauty and Nobility in England as in America. 

England certainly was grand - through Pocahontas's eyes the architechture, the bounty of the market, the glory of James I's court, was truly aweing. Not a great deal of time was spent there though and I think it did have a coldness to it; I didn't feel the camera was looking at the scene with much affection or warmth. But if we are looking from Pocahontas's perspective, that makes sense, I guess - she has an appreciation for what she sees, but she wants to go home in the end, and I really think Malick does, too.

I agree that Rolfe is important and noble, but I'm not sure if we're supposed to lose our sympathy completely for Smith? It is a hard decision for him after all; he came as an explorer - is he supposed to give all of that up for Pocahontas? And he sees what he could have had later; one does feel slightly sorry for him - he looks so small and insignificant in England - Pocahontas's perspective again, I guess; her god had fallen. (I love your description of him by the way - smelly, Romantic pedophile.  :D  Sounds a bit like what Kermode said of Farrel in that role: a "hairy" "mumbling" "bozo")

I haven't seen Dead Man - I'll have to check it out.


Think about the first violent encounter between the Native Americans and the Colonists. One of the Indians steals a tool and is promptly shot. Granted that's a bit harsh but it wasn't done unprovoked. I also think you can't sell short the fact that the Indian's kidnapped and sold one of their own. Yes, Europe still had slaves at this time but we didn't sell our own people. In some was I think the Native Americans are just as evil as the Colonists.
 

Perhaps, yes, the Native Americans aren't perfect, but to say shooting someone for taking something is "harsh" is quite an understatement. I hated the colonists in that moment (or felt I was supposed to). And I still stand by the tribe's treatment of Pocahontas as being in some sense justified - she was a traitor who threatened their survival.
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: sdedalus on April 19, 2008, 01:59:59 PM
I agree that Rolfe is important and noble, but I'm not sure if we're supposed to lose our sympathy completely for Smith? It is a hard decision for him after all; he came as an explorer - is he supposed to give all of that up for Pocahontas? And he sees what he could have had later; one does feel slightly sorry for him - he looks so small and insignificant in England - Pocahontas's perspective again, I guess; her god had fallen. (I love your description of him by the way - smelly, Romantic pedophile.  :D  Sounds a bit like what Kermode said of Farrel in that role: a "hairy" "mumbling" "bozo")

Not so much lose our sympathy for him, as lose our admiration.  Smith is always the hero of the Pocahontas story (more than even her, at least when I was in school).  By the end of the film, he's been reduced to a pathetic figure, and yes, that does provoke some sympathy.  That he starts the film as the traditional hero and ends it so diminished by Rolfe and Rebecca is telling, I think.

And yes, you should see Dead Man.
Title: Re: Beginners' Marathon #3: The New World
Post by: oneaprilday on April 19, 2008, 02:03:46 PM
Not so much lose our sympathy for him, as lose our admiration. 
Yes, you're right - that's a good distinction.

And yes, you should see Dead Man.
OK.  :)