short film reviews, criticism, and occasional musing.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The New World (2005, USA)

I can’t think of another American director like Terrence Malick – his focus on lyrical narrative and space is outside the scope of both mainstream and independent American cinema. World is a particularly strong example of this, and to look at, it's one of the most beautiful films I've seen in a long time. Unfortunately, it seems that Malick spent so much time on the visual atmosphere of his latest project that he lost any narrative thrust that may have originally existed.

Also unfortunate is his depiction of both Native American and English cultures in the story of the clash that resulted when the latter fist landed in Virginia. It’s obvious that a great deal of energy was spent on a genuine attempt to appreciate Native culture, but the ultimately bucolic and toothless depiction lends itself more to fantasy than reality. And a romantic fantasy is probably the best way to describe The New World. It’s nominally more successful as a romance than a drama, and Q'Orianka Kilcher, who couldn’t have been older than 13 or 14 when filming began, is an incredibly magnetic and lovely presence. However, making the strongest and most likable character in the film a beautiful young girl who is all the more attractive to her suitors for her innocence and ignorance reveals a streak of misogyny that turns the romance sour. In the end, World can be appreciated for little more than its visual beauty.


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