Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Visions of delight

1607, 2007: tomorrow, the 10th of January, the US Mint releases commemorative coins for the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown colony. As you will see on their site, the silver dollar design represents “Three Faces of Diversity, representing the three cultures that came together in Jamestown”. That's nice, and quite tempting at $35.


I’ve recently and dutifully watched Terrence Malick’s film, slightly mistimed in its release last year (and sure to have a ‘director’s cut’ this year), The New World. http://www.thenewworldmovie.com/

There’s some highly intelligent for and against argument about the film on the IMDB talkboards,


I confess freely that it took me three sessions to get through the DVD. If you haven’t seen it, you have to imagine the stalagmitically slow enigma of ‘Last Year at Marienbad’ coupled with the chocolate box tragedy of ‘Elvira Madigan’ – yea, it even has a Mozart piano concerto for the walking-together-in-the-long-grass-wondering-if-a-hearty-shag-might-help-us-

over-the-language-difficulties scenes (of which there are many). You cannot imagine anyone doing better with the I’m-in-harmony-with-the-great-mother elegant arm-wavings of Matoaka (Pocahontas)


than the splendidly named Q’Orianka Kilcher, Colin Farrell furrows his brow a lot as John Smith. Superbly shot in natural light, the sound recordist’s perverse work apparently renders a large part of what dialogue there is maddeningly inaudible.

When you read the self-vindications of the ‘Counseil for Virginia’, it’s clear that the English colonists expended their energies falling out with one another, but Malick wants the sound of the wind in the trees and the grass, the sound of raindrops and rivers, and so the one adequately descriptive quarrel ends with a pistol shot that could have been the director’s.

I thought as I watched that the term for the ‘first people’ used in the film, ‘the Naturals’ was false to early 17th century usage, but I was wrong, and someone has done their homework, for there it is “for the Naturals withdrew from all commerce and trafficke with them, cunningly making a war upon them, which they felt not” (A true and sincere declaration of the purpose and ends of the plantation begun in Virginia, 1610, p.11), and there it is in the OED: ‘Natural’, n1., III. A person or thing of or from a designated region; a native. 19. a. A native of a place or country. It must have pleased the polemic purpose of the director no end to discover that.

Here’s the American archaeologists digging up what can be found of Werowocomoco:


Decidedly Bookish said...

I think I'll stick to Disney.

bdh said...

Sure it was pretty, but I'm not having any trouble sleeping...