Thursday, January 17, 2008

DVD REVIEW: “When first I saw her - she was regarded as unfinished.”

I have always regarded Terrence Malick's work as a taste that was far beyond mine. "Badlands" intrigued me with it's disturbing tale, yet lost me in some of it's form choices. "The Thin Red Line" really sent me spinning, unable to connect with anyone in the film and I was bothered with how the film would drift moment to moment, apparently making bold and human defining statements.

So when Malick set forth to make "The New World," my interest was not very high. Colin Farrell stuck in a story that seemed far beyond any place I could see him... a tale that has been told (the trailers made the film look exactly like "Dances With Wolves")... and a director I did not trust. I really only had a superficial desire to see the film.

Recently, I have been listening to a podcast called Watching the Directors, a show that examines a director's full body of work. The show begs for listener interaction and I have often added my opinions throughout. During the Christmas break the show looked at Terrence Malick and I begin to hesitate. The hosts, of course, found his work mesmerizing, speaking of his direction as naturalistic... poetic... perfected.

I conceded and queued his other two films; "Days of Heaven" and "The New World."

As "The New World" began, I immediately had an itch to run away... to react just as I had to his other two films. The narrative is general at best - characters are not introduced... more like brushed up against... edits of nature - water - the sun come and go, cross cut with material to what seems like zero effect.

I stopped the film and walked away... Cara came home and I complained about the same things I had before... "Artsy fartsy... over-done... faking poetry...."

Cara told me to send it back to Netflix... unfinished. I, of course, hate that. So with the snow storm today, I got my second chance to finish the film - thankfully.

As I watched, I began to feel a flow with the film. The natural sounds... the colors of the sky... the look of a face... I started to breathe with it. So I began to jot down thoughts;

Beautiful shots
Abstract editing
Farrell looks confused
Pocahontas (never named) excels
I can’t imagine the shoot - totally random images - film found in editing
Shot of moon - shot of tree.. Randomly added
Birds flying - attack on fort broken into pieces
Colors of white - drab - ugly.. Indians very colorful
Narration is simply thoughts being spoken.
Something with water as well - everything is touching it
I do like the relationship Smith has with Pocahontas - touching feeling - discovery… finding a human for the first time.. Feeling all for the first time…
It must have been insanity to shoot this film… how would a crew work on this?
As woman (no name) becomes more like an English woman… their relationship changes to kissing and more conventional images.
“When first I saw her - she was regarded as unfinished.”

And then - I couldn't put anything else down... the film wrapped around me... I was experiencing the world that Malick was delivering similar to the way his characters experienced the world that they inhabited. For a moment, I did breathe with the film - I could feel a flow... a rhythm.

Now, here I am, typing away my thoughts about the picture... waiting to type a letter grade on it, securing it's place in the list in my mind. I loved it - right? At this moment... my senses are back to reality... I was not completely over taken... and I am left with an experience that at one point reached perfection... yet still could not get my film drenched mind to fully open up.

I cannot see how she can be fully formed... without becoming false or plastic... and that is exactly what Terrence Malick fears. She must live free... or it means nothing.

"The New World" : B+

There... I feel better,


1 comment:

Kern said...

I'm kind of behind on my Malick too, but I have to say I enjoyed both The Thin Red Line and Badlands. It's been perhaps too long since viewing either to give a very astute opinion on them, but one thing I remember about The Thin Red Line was that upon first glance it appeared slightly disjointed and obnoxious, but the more I stayed with it the more I felt like it wasn't so much a film in any traditional sense, and more of a visual poem about men and war. The narrative was perhaps tenuous, but the imagery coupled with the quasi-vignettes were enough to really make me feel that the narrative was meant to be secondary in the first place. Language driven poems often aim with emotionally charged words and phrases aimed at stirring feelings that can't be easily articulated in any normal sense, and to some degree with his deliberate and jarring style, Malick attempts to do the same in his medium.

I'd have to see Days of Heaven and The New World though. The above could just be a symptom of me speaking from my arse.