Thursday, April 20, 2006
#5 (Film in Review 2005)
Terrence Malick's The New World (#5) is, simply put, a spiritual experience - a film brimming over with images and sounds that have left deep imprints upon my brain. It is certainly one of the most magical films I have ever seen, and it utterly bewitched me from the first frame to the last. I am aware that many others' experiences were less than sensational, and I can understand their frustrations with the piece. With Malick, you either take him or leave him - the lingering gazes upon the sublime landscape, the self-aware dialogue, the repetition... It is difficult to imagine one taking a middle ground with The New World, because the director is embraced as often as he is mocked for his distinctive poetic, rhythmical design. He certainly has not dramatically shifted gears compared to his last few efforts. Many zeroed in on the film's screenplay, calling the voiceovers poorly-composed and unnecessary. For me, they played a significant role in allowing me to enter the film's environment - I was able to experience the events through several different focalizers, "seeing" through the eyes of both the settlers and the "naturals". And this is the picture's key achievement, in that it is more than a package of pretty-looking sequences and a play-acting of historical events, but seems like watching history itself unfold before your eyes, like being dropped from the sky into the very axis of this particular reality. And Malick has quite the team working with him to construct this universe - from Emmanuel Lubezki's awe-inspiring cinematography to the art/set decoration by David Crank and Jim Erickson, I cannot imagine the film looking any better. Absolute perfection. And at the centre of it all is Q'Orianka Kilcher, who stole my heart as the Native Princess who, as affirmed by the film's devastating conclusion, lives on after her death in becoming one with the natural world she loved so much.