Tuesday, August 15, 2006




Terrance Malick is no doubt a hit or miss director. When he hits, as he did with BADLANDS and DAYS OF HEAVEN, he hits big. His deft handling of natural elements is unequalled, in my opinion. The photography rivals the actors with its own breathtaking performance. The lighting is exquisite. In BADLANDS, Sissy Spacek was phenomenal and the dialogue between she and Sheen, though sparse, was electric. DAYS OF HEAVEN was not as well received as BADLANDS, but it still succeeded largely in moving the audience with both the innovative camera-work and the actors' performances. Then, there was the war epic THE THIN RED LINE which received an oscar nod but mixed reviews. It was dodgy but still stunning.

THE NEW WORLD is a disappointment for many reasons. The main reason is the unfathomable casting of Colin Farrell as John Smith. He is brusque, rude, vulgar, sullen, and mostly unattractive. The majority of his performance consists of brooding in the shade voiceing complaints in an infuriating monotone. He never truly seems to believe the role and therefore neither do we. His brief love scenes with Pocahontas are extremely dull, only lightening slightly during their final scene together.

An additional problem with the film lies in its lack of dialogue. Being a lover of this particular story, I was really in need of some great interaction between the characters. I wanted to hear wonderful expressions of love and intelligent humor. There should have been deep dialogue (subtitled of course) between the tribe members as they pondered the arrival of the Englishmen. Instead, Malick replaces most of the dialogue with quiet, minimalistic narration that truly confuses the viewer. We find ourselves watching the glorious portrayal of nature, listening to the pretty score, and completely forgetting the whispered words we've just heard. 'wait...what was that? was that important what he said? not'.) I'm not sure what his intention was with this approach, but it certainly didnt reach me. A few great actors (Wes Studi, Christopher Plummer) were completely wasted on such an austere project.
On a positive note, Q'Orianka Kilcher was a luminous Pocahontas. She conveyed more feeling with her eyes than most of her castmates and her lines seemed to flow naturally. Her skin glowed in the ethereal lighting (that is a Malick signature) and when she smiled, it was full of warmth. Add to her solid performance the presence of the GREAT Christian Bale ( and may I just say 'humina humina' ) and there were definitely high points to the film. Bale was the perfect John Rolfe. The fact that he would have played second fiddle to Farrell's John Smith is laughable in the extreme. When he is on the screen, I melt...I just do. His eyes, as they rested on his new wife, were full of love and believeable attraction. And therefore Bale has yet another film to his credit about which he can claim to be the saving grace (at least in my biased eyes).

For a christian, I didnt spot anything that would be especially offensive. There is some documentary style violence (realistic but not glorified) and some allusions to sexual activity but not much is shown. Even the indians are surprisingly modest, with only a few children taking advantage of the PG13 rating.

Even with all the aforementioned problems, I didnt hate this movie. I doubt I will ever watch it again (unless I happen to catch it after Bale makes his belated appearance) but it does have some very beautiful moments. The photography itself is undoubtedly on par with others of the genre. But when a historical epic lacks heart, it will not be universally loved.

My rating: 5/10


Blogger Anastasia said...

I lived in Virginia right near Jamestown where they filmed it. I've never seen it, I couldn't believe colin ferrel as john smith even without seeing the movie!

10:38 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home