the new world of podcasts

You can listen to me discuss the new series of Battlestar Galactica as a segment on Richard Delevan‘s weekly political/arts podcast the Sunday Brunch.

It was a fun exercise, but it took much longer than I expected to put it together. I now have new respect for those who do this kind of thing for a living. I learned a lot about the process, and would be able to complete a similar podcast faster the next time.

For those who are interested, I recorded it on my laptop via a microphone and using the Audacity software. Martin then scrupulously sound-engineered it using Audacity so that I sound like me.

I cut several minutes out of the podcast version as I was under a time constraint. This means I only gave background material and the barest introduction to the current incarnation of Battlestar Galactica. I could talk about the themes and characters of the show for far longer than that, but I hope that those of you who do download it enjoy what I said.

Over the weekend I watched Terrence Malick’s The New World. It’s hard to apply the usual analytical criteria to a Malick film because it’s obvious that he is trying to communicate human experience using a different narrative language.

So, while I applaud much of what he does–especially his ability to evoke complex emotional states (joy, desire, love, passion, despair) via lush photography alone–I have to admit that I think The New World is not a successful film.

My main problem with it is the point of view. It appears from the opening voice-over that this will be the story of Pocahontas/Rebecca (Q’Orianka Kilcher), but then it becomes the story of John Smith (Colin Farrell), wanders back to Pocahontas, meanders into the story of John Rolfe (Christian Bale), before returning to Pocahontas.

The good thing is that by the end of the film I liked it more than I did in the middle, where I found myself getting rather irritated by the point of view switches, even as I marvelled at the cinematography. John Rolfe is introduced far too late into the film as well. The reason I enjoyed it more towards the end is that by then I had figured out what the film was about, and until the last 20 minutes that wasn’t clear.

For me anyway, the film describes what happens to a woman who has a passionate love affair, is decimated by its loss, but eventually learns to love again in a new and mature way. This is a very simple, yet timeless theme, but it is not well established. All the performances are excellent, and there is genuine chemistry between Farrell and Kilcher, and the new dynamic between Kilcher and Bale reflects the different nature of their relationship. There are nice parallels made between the hope (and loss) of a New World of understanding and openness in the original relationship between Smith and Pocahontas, and the initial contact between the English explorers and the Naturals.

Unfortunately, exposition is handled in a clumsy fashion in a number of places, and Malick’s love of voice-over is once again on display, and it is over-used on occasion. He is a tremendously talented director, but based on The New World I think that he could use a co-writer so that his narrative matches his gorgeous direction.

I’m not saying that Malick needs to conform to some trite and formulaic three-act structure, but equally I don’t think there’s any reason why his film needs to be rambling and lacking cohesion.

It’s a flawed film, but it definitely looks beautiful on the big screen.

One Comment

  • Richard Delevan

    You rocked Maura! Thanks a million for doing it – and I’ve been dying to see Malick’s treatment of Pocahontas (has there ever been a successful treatment) since I heard it – I was never convinced by Thin Red Line (I may be alone in this). Fancy doing that for your next one?

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