The New World (2005) dir. Terrence Malick
Watching a Terrence Malick film is like watching a sunset over the ocean while lying on a hot beach. It's a beautiful experience, but you'll fall asleep before it's over.
It is fascinating to see the recreations of early Jamestown. I can't remember seeing any other film - documentary or otherwise - that captures both the everyday muck and the fearful anticipation of arrival and life in the alien America. The New World also does an admirable job of casting the early settlers accurately in native politics, and avoiding the 'Clash of Civilizations' thesis that might be better suited for Latin America.
And, it's not that I don't enjoy seeing Pocahontas and John Smith roll around in the grass for an hour. Prose takes a backseat to visual poetry, and there's no doubt that what we're seeing is glorious. Malick is essentially a wildlife and landscape photographer who wants to resonate more deeply than Planet Earth.
It's really the linear, temporal nature of film that is Malick's enemy. Without any sense of urgency, tension, or wonder about what might happen next, the audience sees no reason to stick around for the 2 - 3 hours. (depending on the cut) His pace is more suited for an art gallery, where we can browse parts of the film, go out for lunch, and then maybe come back and see other parts later in the day.
The New World is #835 on the Top 1000 Movies list I’m blogging through. So far, I’ve seen 390.