Monday, July 30, 2012

Movie of the Week – The New World

This week’s movie is The New World (2005).

The drama is about the first English settlers, including John Smith, arriving in Virginia in the 17th century, and their clash with the natives. It is also a love story between Smith and Pocahontas, and later Pocahontas and John Rolfe. Directed and written by Terrence Malick, the film is more an emotional experience than a true narrative piece (like all his films). I would also contend that it is not only his most underrated work, but also one of his best films. From the stark reality that the natives face with the arrival of the English and all that means to the future of their civilization (poignantly shown in a scene in which Opechancanough stares at a stain-glass window, realizing that his and his people’s whole way of life is over) to the beautiful photography (the juxtaposition between Virginia and London is quite striking). It is the first collaboration between Malick and director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki, garnering some of greatest work of the decade. The pair worked together so well that Lubezki has shot and is shooting Malick’s next four films (The Tree of Life, and the upcoming To the Wonder, Lawless and Knight of Cups). James Horner provides a great score, and long-time Malick collaborator Jack Fisk provides excellent production design. Malick’s cast is also very good with Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher and Christian Bale starring, and support from Christopher Plummer, August Schellenberg, Wes Studi, David Thewlis, and Yorick van Wageningen. Malick’s film is powerful, exploring the wonder, beauty and naivety of the New World, but also tragic and sad as the viewer sees both the birth of America and the death of the native civilization. The romantic story is also well done. Historically, John Smith’s story has been called into question, but the film is not so much about the facts, rather the experience. It is a must-see for fans of Malick and those looking for an engulfing emotional and visual experience. Check out the trailer.

Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Streaming

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