Thursday, June 16, 2011

THE NEW WORLD (Terrence Malick, 2005)

Terrence Malick has always had his serene, impressionistic way of going about things, but in his take on that often-mythologised first encounter of European and Native American cultures, he takes his style to a kind of extreme.

During the opening reel, you may be wondering whether you’re watching the movie or just its trailer. He ignores every rule and technique that prizes spatial continuity. Every new image seems to bear only an arbitrary link to the preceding one – it seems to exist in and of itself. As a result, even time appears to take on its own entity.

All of these things have been done before, both in American cinema and particularly in European avant-garde cinema, but never in this way. No other picture – at least none where the narrative plays a key role - has followed this pattern for its entire feature length. It feels jarring at first – the way you’re thrown into a busy situation, on the face of it without anything tangible to hold onto. But in time the rhythm grows entrancing. You begin to experience every sound, every colour and every texture on an unusually direct, intimate level. An element of revelation may very well come over you as the movie reaches its closing, achingly gorgeous London sequences.

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