Can the story of Captain Smith, Pocahontas, et.al. be presented in
the fashion of "Last Year in Marienbad"? Terrence Malick (of "Days of
Heaven," yup) seems to channel Resnais in "The New World" he wrote and
It's a bizarre, puzzling, beautiful, and maddening film, sure to end up
on both the year's best and worst lists. And, one of the strangest
things about this strange movie is its soundtrack.
After James Horner's name appears on the screen as the composer, there
follows 2 1/2 hours (doesn't anyone make 90-minute movies anymore?) of
Mozart and Wagner.
Now, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 floating over the muck of the
settlement and the broad vistas of the Naturals (as Christopher Plummer
refers to the Indians) may be anachronistic, but we are well used to KV
488 from a dozen movies, including - alas - "Way of the Gun," "Good
Riddance," and "Misunderstood."
No, what's interesting about the soundtrack of "The New World" is how
the Prelude to "Das Rheingold" is used - at length and significantly.
Just as the film itself is good/bad, there is a contrast here in the
appropriateness of the soundtrack. Wagner's unstoppable ascending
modulation makes no sense at all in the middle of the movie, but the
very beginning is something else.
As the settlers' ships approach the coast of this new and strange world,
water is everywhere... and there swells that grand "Creation music" so
well, so right. Underwater glimpses of young native women swimming just
reinforce the connection, needlessly.
Studio notes, by the way, identify soundtrack portions not written by
Horner as "non-original music." That be Mozart and Wagner...:)
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