Monday, August 24, 2009

The New World by Terrence Malick

Nature in Malick's films is a protagonist in its own right, the changing seasons transforming the course of the other characters' lives. Having a poetic and a painter's vision, he can properly be called a romantic director.

In The New World the romanticism is of three kinds: the tranquility of nature, the "pure" love between Smith and the princess, and the nostalgia of Eden as depicted in the lifestyle of the native Americans. The film is a long one, and though I am not one to get restless at languid or static shots, the film does become somewhat cliched towards the end. The best part for me was The Stranger which in great poetic fashion depicted the flowering of love between two people.


And the film is also interesting because though one may be forgiven for eulogizing love in the first half of the film, and for flowing along the river of feelings, the pain and suffering which it entails in the second half is no small cautionary tale.

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On a related note, I recently watched a 12-minute short film. The film is about love. Though the film is not profound, I will leave you to interpret what it says about alienation, longing and the void within. I shudder to think of the dependence the man is going to fall into.

10 comments:

Jarnail said...

Having just seen and enjoyed as well as admired the twelve minute short film provided in your post, I was slightly astonished to hear your shudders coming across. I really wonder what kind of blankness you aspire to. To each the fare she-he relishes. I pray your relentlessness leads you somewhere in the longer analysis.

Surbhi said...

The film is a good example of how human beings ignore their own life while trying to fill an imagined void. Otherwise the physical attractiveness of the male actor makes it implausible that he cannot find a companion in a city. The film reaffirms the 'neediness' which leads one to seek , in this case, a companion; otherwise: religion, group, nationalism, even violence.

I am reminded of a french film in which a man, after serving a long time in prison, seeks actors to perform as his family, an elaborate drama that he constructs to fulfill his 'dreams' of a family he could not have: wife, wife's lover, children, sisters and a mistress: all hired actors.

Surbhi said...

"Having a poetic and a painter's vision, he can properly be called a romantic director."

I do not quiet understand your assessment of the film. The film is visually arresting but the contrast between the unfettered vegetation of the wild and the cultivated and pruned gardens of England is a deliberate statement on the chasm in perspectives of people inhabiting these places.

Cannibals of the wild are not a vision of romanticism at all but a note about the inherent passions of human beings. The camera movements are fluid because the director intends to tell a visual story of a world, not available to the eyes generally used to seeing the sophistication of urban landscaping. Tranquility of nature is certainly not romantic tradition but its effect on viewer and viewer's emotional response to such tranquility is Romanticism.

the "pure" love between Smith and Princess is not a romantic tenet either. I am not clear about the suggestion of nostalgia of Eden being depicted: do you mean absence of violence in their lifestyle or lack of social morals?
( but violence abound and lack of social morals is not eden-like either but merely being driven by instincts).

Malick , i doubt , is depicting flowering of 'love' in The Stranger; rather unmistakable need for a sexual companion and the attraction of the 'other': of wild for the civilized and vice versa.

The film stands out in visuality as do most Malick's films. However the film is not edited well and could have done well with less intrusive background music.

Surbhi said...

rejoinder:

the lack of jealousy, deception and competition among the Natives is a matter of interest for Smith who is attracted to the mystery of Pocahontas and her tribe. For Pocahontas he is affirmation of her spiritual upbringing, the novelty only meant for her, as she is special among her people. Her exotic body and manners appeal to both the man in the film and the voyeur in the audience. She is the virginal wild animal and Smith is the cultivated experienced man, attracted to her innocence, looks to possess her.

no mystery here, Malick is catering to the male gaze of the audience.

Lukas said...

Though still playing on the familiar cliché of the drudgery, meaninglessness, & isolation of modern urban life, another short I recently watched (Maybe One Day) allows more room for individual freedom rather than the surreptitiously sinister dyadic romanticism afforded to the character in the other short (Signs). Though 'Signs' is filmed beautifully, perhaps its photographic cleanliness allows the love-cliché to shine through too clearly. Perhaps 'Maybe One Day' can complement & contrast with a different solution to the similar problem in 'Signs' (though not exactly the same).

Surbhi said...

@Lukas: thank you for the reference to the film. It is a delightful film not just for the theme but also the experimental filming technique.

Jarnail said...

"I shudder to think..."

One should not run away from the agonies and joys of life..one cannot nor should even if could...it is precisely by encountering great waves that a surfer experiences the joys of surfing and likewise for mountaineers etc...not by curling into a foetal position...life is such an adventure...life is joy,sorrow,boredom, excitement, nectar and poison, life is everything and nothing...life just is...life is to live till we live..before it is late...

Harmanjit Singh said...

Life and Universe is more, far more, than a roller coaster ride through the feelings of agony or joy all which stem from the illusory feeling of being a separated, disembodied self.

But to each his own, I guess.

Surbhi said...

"agonies and joys of life": spring out of notions, imagination, fears and lack of confidence; by products of ego,instincts, passions; poor rehearseals of living;incidental, accidental and circumstancial. all this when happiness is available here and now. perhaps clearing the doors of perception will help...

naivecortex said...

I can relate a lot to that video clip. Thank you for posting it.

[...] the physical attractiveness of the male actor makes it implausible that he cannot find a companion in a city.

Surbhi, from what I understand 1) a man needs self-confidence more than physical attractiveness (read about PUA, seduction game, etc..) in order to find a woman 2) women generally expect the man to ask them out first. Thus, for a man like that guy in the youtube video .. it is unlikely to find a date.

As for the 'neediness', in my experience .. the lustful feelings (including feelings of 'beauty') come prior to any felt neediness.