Movie Review
The New World

By: Sky Hirschkron

Posted 02/08/2006 - 11:03:19 AM by PlatypusQuest:
 Ouch. I couldn't disagree more... Not only is this my favorite Malick film, but I also found it to be best film of 2005 (unless The Best of Youth counts).
Posted 02/08/2006 - 03:57:22 PM by hibeside:
 I'd rather watch hundreds of emotion as narrative, rather than action as narrative, films than any other types of films being made. The dramatic focus on bits and pieces is much more satisfying than reliance on narrative plotpoints that either give too much or simply feel forced and out of place. At least in Malick, we have formulated sponteneity, rather than overscripted mishmash. And in defense of New World, despite some of the vo obviousness/redundancy, it isn't as good as Badlands or even quite as ivory towered as Thin Line. But it wasn't all excess and without it there is no audience. So we are forced to watch much more intense drama than hear intense drama. I'll take it. "The rare refutable declaration offers refutation only much later." can you say that in a different way because your e.g. didn't explain your abstruse prose. oh and I think you are missing the political implications of revisiting the formulation of identity within a historical context, the meeting of foreign cultures, the choices individuals make in such a setting. To depict those times in which paths are defined is a politically motivated action. To see what man does to woman here or what "normal" does to "other", or how "other" reacts to "normal's" world is politically oriented, wouldn't you say? I don't think this film is a just a romance between three people.
Posted 02/08/2006 - 09:09:17 PM by skyhir:
 "can you say that in a different way because your e.g. didn't explain your abstruse prose." Declaration = voice-over. I meant refutable as in the degree to which it invites audience interaction -- i.e., can we question what the characters are saying? in the case of the examples i gave, yes, the utopia smith describes eventually falls apart, and pocahontas eventually moves onto another man. but *when the voice-over happens*, we are made to be one with the characters' idealism, as suppressive of chaos/infidelity as they are. that's fine for some, but it didn't do much for me, esp. in the context of malick's earlier work.

i see how the story could be politically oriented. but i am not a political writer. i'm an aesthete. and i don't see how those allegorical implications *complicate* what is onscreen.

for the record, i consider myself "mixed" on this film, and if i personally allotted the grade, it would be a c+. but i wanted to focus on the negatives in this review because i feel all the stuff about the sweeping lyrical grandeur of malick's images is self-evident, and because most of the pans of this film basically come from a stance of "he shoots nature too much," not lending my disappointment a lot of advance credibility.

Posted 02/09/2006 - 12:40:49 AM by hibeside:
 ok, and I really don't mean to be this boring, but: I don't know how you can separate aesthetics and politics. For a long time, particularly and perhaps only, modernist artists were entirely political. I am assuming you already know this. When art shrugged off its religious compulsions (or perhaps even compunctions), it became a political medium. Adorno in Aeshetic Theory taught us this on the very first page, so I can't understand how aesthetics, especially given what a true modernist Malick is, can be ultimately disregarded by an aesthete whose perspective is so, historicaly speaking, intertwined with politics. You might say, no Malick isn't of Adorno's ilk, rather Heidegger's, but I think some of the oblique and poetic aspects of Malick's films work in the same way that Adorno spoke of avante garde poetry and its oblique nature. Especially in Badlands. There, where there seemed to be so little, resided a world of meaning just below the surface, in Adorno, the negative dialectics, in Heidegger similar but different, his hermeneutics. But even then you challenge whether the allegory (which I would say is less allegorical and more metonymic) isn't quite complicated by the political. But doesn't that unfairly strip away meaning from some of the modernist political artists, choosing to disregard the depth to analyze just the surface? I do like your comment about being drawn too closely to Smith's idealism (we are forced to connect with it), a point where this oblique/opaque notion isn't quite followed. We are normally kept at a distance from the narrator's voice, the entire pathos never revealed. Here, that doesn't always hold true. But I must again rely on my political argument to say the real cream of this twinkie is found elsewhere, not quite as much within the characters as you might seem to wish. I might be looking to far into it, but the film opened with maps being created in time, boundaries determined by someone's hand and wish. Following was a metanarrative, revisiting the place which was once created by another's hands. What is the story in New World which challenges the past's revisions?
Posted 02/09/2006 - 12:40:59 AM by cables:
 I thought i was the only person on earth who really disliked this film. Thanks for the conformation.
Posted 02/10/2006 - 12:43:57 AM by hibeside:
 I might have to take some of it back. Just go watch Cache.
Posted 02/10/2006 - 03:31:19 AM by skyhir:
 I did like Cache quite a bit, hibeside, but not because I was frought with guilt over the Algerian atrocities, but rather on account of Haneke being wicked awesome.
Posted 02/10/2006 - 07:51:16 AM by MichaelB:
 Sky, I completely respect and appreciate the fact that you're trying to write about film with a degree of intelligence and consideration, but your reviews read like undergraduate essays, more eager to impress than express. I'm honestly not intending to snipe, and I certainly don't want some kind of prescribed reviewing style. I suppose I just want your evident passion and love for film to be reflected more in your writing. As a self-professed aesthete, your diction can be markedly dry and inelegant. As for your casual shrug at the mention of politics - everything is political: the toilet paper you use; the clothes you wear; the air you breathe. To close your eyes to that is maddeningly solipsistic. I must stress that I mean no offense, whatsoever. I enjoy reading Stylus and appreciate your efforts. I just think that Orwell's ideal of journalistic language as 'hard and clear' - like a river where every pebble on the bed is visible (to paraphrase) - is a notion to cherish and uphold. Not to mention his views on a writer's political responsibility. Thanks, Michael
Posted 02/10/2006 - 03:12:24 PM by hibeside:
 fine. haneke is wicked awesome, but the film doesn't have a context (or in this case a subtext) without the political. It doesn't have any meaning at all. Cache is a movie with no ending without the political. With the political it's a film with endless possibilities. And it made film a subject. I just love that.
Posted 02/10/2006 - 06:40:33 PM by ieatseeds:
 I am enjoying this avalanche of verbose comments/responses to this review but I want to take a small step aside and comment on my personal appreciation of the film. Subtract the politics, Malick's previous work, and the very real history of Jamestown/The New World... I really enjoyed this. At one point I think Pocahantas says something like "you flow through me like a river." Quite honestly, that statement is one of the most cliched proclamations of love in the history of film, art, or life in general. But that didn't make it any less gripping. The wonderful part about this film was the way it flowed through me, like a river. Thin Red Line had that same effect on me. Subtract the terrible trappings of the contrived blockbuster film and you have something completely refreshing. I am so invigorated by the depictions of nature in Malick's work because it captures it how I would envision it in dreams. The wind is blowing, the sun is shining, the bugs are buzzing, the grasses eternally swaying as if alive. This is a romantic capturing and extremely self-indulgent on Malick's part but I don't mind it one bit. I'd rather watch The New World than...... WATERWORLD! ha hahaaaaa
Posted 02/10/2006 - 10:49:05 PM by hibeside:
 I'm really not going to get upset about that comment ieatseeds, even though the whole reason you exist on stylus, it seems, is to make inflammatory comments that alienate most everyone interested. I suppose I could ask you, what is the purpose of Malick's idealism in this case? Does it mean anything more than 'pretty romantic' pictures? Why do the 'pretty romantic' pictures set you off? These are just three amongst a host of questions that might lead your intial, seemingly guttural, responses down a path that might provide fruitful thought on your behalf. So i suppose I am asking you to think some more before you opinionate so quickly. And your tone in your response needs some work. It neither lends itself to humor nor gravity.
Posted 02/11/2006 - 11:26:11 AM by venezuelan1:
 I have to agree with Michael here. Every review of yours that I read I have to read with a dictionary in hand and imdb open. Stop trying to prove how knowledgable about film you are. Your audience are not your film professors, and every review should not read like a PHD. The film critics that I enjoy clearly express emotion and thus, illicit emotion from the people that read them. I do not mean to be offensive, as it is clear that you are very intelligent and are no amateur when it comes to film. Just try and express yourself more clearly.
Posted 02/12/2006 - 12:57:21 AM by ieatseeds:
 I think you are mostly misunderstanding where I was coming from, hibeside... I was mostly agreeing with you. Especially when you said "At least in Malick, we have formulated sponteneity, rather than overscripted mishmash. And in defense of New World, despite some of the vo obviousness/redundancy, it isn't as good as Badlands or even quite as ivory towered as Thin Line. But it wasn't all excess and without it there is no audience. So we are forced to watch much more intense drama than hear intense drama. I'll take it." 'Overscripted mishmash' is what a lot of movies on 'The New World's budget end up being. Plus! I wasn't trying to be funny since I'm a girl and girls are rarely funny! Nor was I trying to lend gravity to my comments since I only scribbled a response that took 30 seconds to write...I wasn't trying to put down anything remotely important... just the fact that I liked the movie and sometimes that is all that matters. Some of the time I can take in-depth analysis of stuff like 'The New World' but most of the time I would much rather just enjoy it or not enjoy it and leave it at that. Anyway, since it is snowing outside I took at least a minute to write this. Instead of my usual 30 seconds. Bye! Don't freak out! Man!
Posted 02/12/2006 - 01:16:31 AM by skyhir:
 "everything is political: the toilet paper you use; the clothes you wear; the air you breathe."


I take no issue with being called maddeningly solipsistic (or hedonistic), however; maddening solipsism = what I strive for. If you want politically responsible writing, head over to You can have your Orwell, and I'll take my Bazin.

Posted 02/12/2006 - 01:37:27 AM by skyhir:
 Just to elaborate with a not-quite-absurd-imo analogy on that initial "no": by the same token, you could say, "everything is sexual: the toilet paper you use; the clothes you wear; the air you breathe." Need I dilute every review with how horny I'm feeling that day as well?
Posted 02/12/2006 - 01:51:01 AM by hibeside:
 My bad, ieatseeds. I wasted a meager attempt at intelligence in the face of actual sincereity. I assumed yours was the sarcastic sort. My apologies.
Posted 02/12/2006 - 02:00:05 AM by hibeside:
 skyhir, umm, not to disregard the maddening solipsism comment, but were you consciously referencing the new world review on slantmagazine or was it accidental that both reviews used ember/amber as metaphor within the first few lines of each article? Either way that's weird. Oh and by the way I've never heard of that website (because I'm not going to use the objectionable 'webzine') until tonight and my life will see no change.
Posted 02/12/2006 - 02:00:52 AM by hibeside:
 maddening solipsism? so a real live high modernist is within our midst?
Posted 02/12/2006 - 02:06:39 AM by skyhir:
 the e/amber thing wasn't conscious, but the fact that they jizzed all over the movie on the basis of "sociological heft" was.
Posted 02/12/2006 - 02:47:56 AM by hibeside:
 ha. I'm a little scared of that website. Ok, if not the e/amber thing, what about the usage of a reflection/refraction and their reflecting light thing? Sorry, I'm not belaboring this to be obnoxious. Its just plain odd.
Posted 02/12/2006 - 03:18:20 AM by skyhir:
 just tell me there isn't some part i skimmed over about the "gawky 14-year-old Sky H."

anyway i just came up with another really cogent-ass analogy. alright, so let's say i wrote a review of hong sang-soo's tale of cinema in which i went on about the "culinary heft" of hong's penchant for wide-angle long takes of tables cluttered with green beer bottles and delicious-looking confections. the observation is true to a certain mindset, but ultimately extra-cinematic, a la politicizing TNW.