People who frequent this blog know very well that Terrence Malick’s The New World is high on my list of the happiest things on earth. It’s a film that I’ve probably watched 20 times over the past three years, each time relishing anew the truth, beauty, and catharsis it offers. Imagine my utter glee, then, when it was announced that a new director’s extended cut of the film was to be released this fall on DVD. I was beside myself.
Well, that release day came this past Tuesday, and I happily purchased the DVD for $15.99 on Amazon. I urge all Malick fans to do the same. If you liked The New World as it was seen in theaters in 2006, you will love the extended version, which has about 40 minutes of added footage.
There are now three versions of the film that I’ve seen. There was a cut screened for critics in December of 2005 (approximately 150 minutes), the cut released in theaters (135 minutes), and now the new cut (172 minutes). Each is beautiful and complete, but I have to say that this latest, longest version is to me the definitive, canonical version.
It is clear that this cut was indeed fashioned by Malick himself. It isn’t simply a re-insertion of deleted scenes or a series of elongated scenes that had been previously snipped for length. No, there are many noticeable changes to the flow and texture of the film, all for the better. Here are a few things that the new cut includes:
- Intertitles. This is the most striking addition, and one that I loved. About 7 or 8 times throughout the film, Malick inserts intertitles that segment the film in new and interesting ways. The effect is occasionally informative for the narrative’s chronology (i.e. “London, 1614”), but frequently it is more poetic (“A Secret Crop,” “The Return of the Floating Islands,” etc). The insertion of these chapter breakdowns lends more credence to the theory that Malick is over-the-moon in love with silent cinema. His films, after all, are way more about image than dialogue, and certainly in The New World this is the case. The intertitles here feel very silent-film esque—framing the action and giving a “what’s next” sense and flow to an otherwise free-flowing film. In any case, I really liked this addition.
- Added Wagner sequence. In the two previous versions, there are 3 immensely epic sequences set to Wagner’s monstrous Das Rheingold prologue. In this latest cut, there is a fourth! This one takes place at around the 1 hour 19 minute mark, and lasts a little over a minute. It introduces a new segment of Das Rheingold that we haven’t heard in any other version of the movie, as well as images of Pocahontas by a roaring river that are beautiful, new, and totally appropriate.
- Lots more voiceover fragments. Voiceovers have been crucial in all of Malick’s films, but in The New World they take on a whole new feel—more fragmentary, more poetic, fluidly incoherent. They are seemingly random assemblages of thoughts and words, but reflective of how we actually think (i.e. not in complete or sensical sentences). This is only amplified in the extended cut, with many more layered whisperings and ponderous murmurs uttered in voiceover, which, combined with the other cinematic rhythms of sounds and image, make for a truly breathtaking and unique viewing experience.