Sunday, April 02, 2006
I got to see Terrence Malick's latest film, The New World, today. I was basically expecting a similar film to The Thin Red Line but with muskets instead of machine guns. I was actually a little disappointed by it because it actually had a conventional a to b plot structure at the centre of the movie, but it wasn't very well-written. The visuals, the scene settings, the camera movements and the music were all entrancing, but the story, a rather trite retread of the Pocahontas story, didn't bring very much to the package. This part of the film actually could have been a reshoot of Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, with John Smith as Jane and Pocahontas as Tarzan.
Certainly there are some underlying themes to the plot, like a Paradise Lost Adam and Eve, with a little bit of influence from the idea of the noble savage and early ideas of the frontier thesis. But nothing one wouldn't expect, really.
Malick is unmatched at shooting settings. One thing I noticed about the film is that there were very very few shots that were taken above eye-level. So any view you were shown could have been something you might have been able to observe yourself if you were there. At the same time all of the sets were given three dimensional bodies, you knew the structures of the settlement and how they were laid out, you could see the size of the lands that they were just poking into, compared with the fenced-in nature of the English countryside where every square inch of land had been previously set foot upon by some other person.
I've read discussions about there being another cut of the movie that is supposedly far superior. Hopefully what I watched wasn't this second cut because this really wasn't what I was expecting. Weirdly I think I was hoping for something of what angered so many people about The Thin Red Line, a kind of wandering eye observing the goings on at some historic point without taking too keen an interest in any given character or story arc.
It's definitely worth seeing, but be unfortunately the conventional plot is a bit cheesy.
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