Why Is “The New World” on 2005 Best-Lists If Malick Finished It in 2006?

The final cut of Terrence Malick’s The New World was not finished until January 2006.

It was not shown to critics in Seattle until January 18, 2006.

The cut that was shown to Oscar voters in a rather rushed attempt to get an Oscar nomination was not the finished film.

And yet, critics everywhere are counting The New World as a 2005 picture.

This really sucks, because it means that the film… which some critics, including myself, consider the best film of the year, and even the best film of the last several years… will not even be considered in Best Film Lists for 2006.

I’m going to count it on my 2006 list. I may be the only one, but really… is there any other rational choice in this matter?

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  • SolShine7

    I hope it still sails along.

  • Matt Page

    Jeffrey, you have been a star in the chair role, and I benefited greatly from your work in the time since I joined the FFCC. Many, many thanks.

    Matt Page

  • Sheila West

    Like, WOW, Jeffrey! I just sent you a PM over at A&F where I made a joke in the PM’s title. It reads “You’re not TOO busy, right?”

    Oh man! I feel stupid now for even sending you that PM!

    You gotta do what you gotta do. Being aware of one’s own limitations, and monitoring one’s current load, is an important life skill that not everyone has mastered. Better for you to opt for less output with higher quality

    Best wishes, Jeffrey.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Well, the film did get a limited release on Christmas Day 2005, and it was in theatres for at least a full week before the second cut came out in January 2006. (I’m not sure I would call the second cut the “finished” cut, since there have always been rumours of a longer, three-hour version.) Films are generally dated to the year when they were first released, even when the second and third cuts come out in subsequent years. I’ve seen both versions, and I don’t think they’re so different that it matters which year the film is assigned to; but suffice to say that I don’t think I would advocate a situation in which the first cut was eligible for the 2005 list while the second cut was eligible for the 2006 list.

  • Ellen Collison

    I’ve also noticed that a lot of visual artists really resonate with the film.

    Exactly! One of the main reasons I enjoyed this film was the camerawork, light, color, way shots were composed, etc. If it works for you, you end being drawn into the world that’s depicted. And if it doesn’t work for you, well – I can see why the movie would be tedious. (That’s not meant as a criticism, just a comment – I think Malick’s style is something people either love or hate.)

  • Tim Frankovich

    You’re right. I don’t buy books of poetry. But at the same time… when I pick up a novel and see that it’s over 500 pages, I get excited. I LIKE long stories. (I even enjoy reading David Copperfield or War and Peace, for example.) I’ve read The Lord of the Rings around 30 times. Just finished reading it out loud to my 8-year-old daughter (3rd time reading it out loud).

    So I like length… but I like story, too.

  • Campbell Andrews

    ’05 or ’06, it’s still the best movie of either.

    It does lose something on the small screen… making it one of the best arguments for investing in a true home theater!

    I saw it twice on release, enraptured by it both times. But viewing any movie at home (on my 27″ tube), I find myself distracted. I’m presently in the middle of Pabst’s Pandora’s Box, only able to watch it in 20-minute spurts.

    The truer to the form a movie is, the less likely it’s going to play as well on TV. Video is just a compromised experience; if you expect the best movies to survive interruption and simply hold your interest for a spare evening, you’re not going to find yourself appreciating much of anything that’s challenging and rewarding.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Oh, and by the way, watching The New World on a TV is like looking at a thumbnail-view of Monet’s Water Lilies. Without the full, resonant surround-sound experience and the large canvas, I can only assume many people will fail to understand it. It was meant to be experienced on a massive scale. That’s why I saw it four times on the big screen before it disappeared. The sound design for the big theater was exquisite… some of the best I’ve ever experienced.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Well, Tim, I have no problem understanding why others… to be more specific, SOME others… aren’t as “fanatical” about it as I am.

    I’ve found plenty of people who do appreciate it the way I do.

    I’ve devoted a whole chapter of Through a Screen Darkly to why I love it. Saying it’s “slow” may be a complaint in your vocabulary, but it’s not in mine. I wish more movies took their time the way this one does.

    I’ve noticed that… and I know this is a gross generalization, but it seems to be true most of the time… most people who love The New World are people who are just as likely to buy a book of poetry as they are to buy a novel. The differences between Malick’s style and most other filmmakers’ style have a lot in common with the difference between poetry and prose. Prose is about what happens next and poetry is about examining a moment and its relationships with all kinds of other moments before and after.

    I’ve also noticed that a lot of visual artists really resonate with the film. They show it in art courses here at Seattle Pacific. One of the instructors once approached me on campus, eyes wide, and she grabbed me by the shoulders, shook me, and said, “Jeffrey… HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEW WORLD YET?!” She looked like she’d just had a revelation. Fortunately, I knew what she was talking about, and we didn’t even need to say more than that.

    My wife and I have watched it several times through. We save our questions for the movie. And eventually, by wrestling with it, the answers come clear. That’s the kind of experience I love… and I find it in Kieslowski, Tarkovsky, Bresson, the Dardennes, Ozu, Hou, Dreyer, and several others.

    Most American entertainment has convinced us that questions will be quickly answered, things will happen in a fast and exciting way, and we won’t be challenged to have to figure anything out. But some artists aren’t so preoccupied with STORY as they are with space and time, inviting us to dwell in a place and wait patiently until something is revealed.

    Sorry you didn’t like it. I have many friends who didn’t, and I’m not going to try to change their minds. Some will get into its rhythms and its ideas. Others won’t.

    Heck, I thought Three Colors: Blue was boring the first time I saw it. But I at least sat through it. And then, suspecting I’d missed something, I sat through it again. And again. And now, on some days, it rises even beyond Wings of Desire (another film that puts my friends to sleep) to become my favorite film.

    It’s way too early to say whether The New World is my all-time favorite film. I’ve only seen it seven times.

  • Tim Frankovich

    Sigh… You’re going to hate me for this, Jeffrey.

    My wife and I rented The New World a few months ago based solely on your ravings. We watched the first hour or so, and then got interrupted. We weren’t able to continue it that night. The next night… well… neither one of us really felt strongly enough about it to even continue the movie. It was so slow and vague… The only reason I understood what was going on was because I’m familiar with the history. My wife was constantly asking, “What just happened? Who was that?” etc. We returned it to Blockbuster without finishing it.

    Maybe that will help explain why more people aren’t as fanatical about it as you. :(