The New World (2005) –

I feel I should approach this more as an opera, or a symphony, than a movie. Fugue and elegiac are the first words that come to mind, although I am not sure of their meaning. The wide screen at the Walker was filled with image after image taken from a Bierstadt painting, or in the case of the Indians, from a George Catlin. The music soared and swelled; it not only provided emotion for every scene, it could have been listened to with eyes closed. The story itself was not one to take seriously – any more than an opera’s. Battles were fought to the death, but eveyone seemed fairly alive five minutes later. With Indian eyes peering everywhere, the king’s favorite daughter had no trouble creeping off for illicit sex with a white hostage. And then with realistic scruffiness all around, her choice of a husband came down to Colin Farrell or Christian Bale.
Although based on historical incident -which worked heavily against the movie in its final 20 minutes – the plot bore an uncanny resemblance to Avatar, which separated it further from reality. Both films, of course, posed the same existential question: can Western man live in peace? If we come across an alien race, will we try to coexist, or will we see a new potential food source? Terrence Malick’s films, of which the newest, Tree of Life, has just won top honors at Cannes, are meditations so unlike other films that they should almost be considered “out-of-competition,” sui generis artworks to be experienced in a different frame of mind.

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