The New World (2005)
Directed by Terrence Malick
There are three cuts of The New World and not one other Malick film has any variation the famously reclusive artist needed us to see. This was the work he’d been waiting to paint his whole life, the one he needed to make sure his audience understood the purpose of. Taking inspiration from Wagner and Rembrandt, Malick dreams up cinema’s truest understanding of the discovery of promise and its eventual destruction into shards of violence. The narrative in the back of everything Americans continue to do. To create a match on celluloid for the Dutch master’s paintings of exodus and turmoil in the 1630s and the German composer’s operas, Malick wrote a new language for film. It was louder and clearer than his previous work, with images of unrivaled beauty and a soundscape as varied and honest as the air of the untouched Americas. Film behaves uniquely and boldly in the hands of Malick and his cadre of collaborators, into territory uncharted like the country it describes. And while the fluid arhythmic directionality of the camera, and the contrapuntally smooth and perfect montage are crucial to its diction, the work that ensured its perfect entrance into our senses was that of production designer Jack Fisk.
Fisk, whose career stretches back to exploitation gems like Messiah of Evil, Phantom of the Paradise and Terminal Island, created the stage on which Malick and the sprawling cast and crew could dance so freely. His Jamestown, its still waters penetrated by great, gorgeous ships, its virgin forests interrupted by camps and forts, is a marvel worthy of its director’s revolutionary grammar. Fisk renders every inch of the first, tumultuous corner of America with grace and precision, imbuing Malick’s images with confidence and certainty. There is no doubt that this is what the beginning of “American” life looked like, and that is thanks to Fisk etching personality and full life onto every tent and stack of wood waiting to be burned. Life in The New World is an uneasy meshing of two cultures, both rendered with subtle, awe-inspiring dexterity by a man whose business is the creation of environments that previously only existed in dreams and hopes. The New World is a collaboration between like minded artists who knew that film could be grander than it had ever been before. Scout Tafoya (March 11, 7pm at the Museum of the Moving Image’s “See It Big! Jack Fisk”)