25 years filmmagazine shomingeki!
shomingekiblog is a blog associated with my former print magazine shomingeki published in German language. This blog will focuse mostly on english texts, translations from German into English and in some exceptions french texts. The official home page is at the moment: www.shomingeki.org. The official page for the German language version of shomingeki is: www.shomingekionline.org
shomingeki is now after 24 printissues available online. Non-Profit.
1. The New World, USA: 2005, Terrence Malick (Berlin Filmfestival
2006, Out of competition)
I am writing on this film which was the most memorable cinema
experience of the Berlin Film festival 2006.
The film shows what Northern America once was, an eternal wide
nearly pure and eternal beautiful land. The film is going to show how
soon it will change when it is discovered and acquired by the
strangers, the Englishmen. Wit the first tree that falls and with the
first native who are called here "Naturals) who will be killed,
the changing begins. The English who come from a landscape which is
mostly formed and changed by men do not understand this wild and
beautiful landscape and they understand even less its habitants who
live in harmony with this land formed by nature.
"Come spirit, help us sing the song of our land", we
hear Pocahontas, daughter of an indian king praying on a river
landscape at the beginning of the film. This prayer is the initial
point of the film. Terrence Malick, an American can´t tell the story
of this people and he never pretend in no part of the film to do so.
But what he tries is to create himself an access over imagination
manifested in this dream of an America in an Era far away back in
time with a culture which exists today only marginal.
The Virginia of the 17th Century is reconstructed by Malick with
all the cinematic technics available in the 21. Century. On the other
hand he relinquished in a lot of technical tools which the
contemporary cinema is used today like artificial light or
computer-animated visual effects. What is told in this film is the
legendary, deficient recorded love story between the Englishman Smith
and Pocahontas. The film is partly reconstructed and partly an
How men are moving in rooms or in the open landscape in places
they know or in places strange to them gives an idea of the richness
of this film. When the English step first time on this new discovered
country where nature is nearly untouched or how Pocahontas and a
member of her tribe discover for the first time the man made
landscape of english cities brings this film exactly to the point.
English like Natives are confused by places unknown to them and their
orientation is irritated. Through a unique sense for space,
Malick is able to transport us back into the past. This realized idea
is one of so many miracles offered by this film.
The few war scenes between English and Natives are films with
handheld camera. They confuse the audiences orientation. We are in
the middle of an event but in a scary and disturbing way. Every
movement brings insecurity. Fear and the ugly work of killing is all
what we see. We are used to appreciate even the worst slaughter in
films like LORD OF THE RING or TROY as an spectacle. The short scenes
of violence in Malicks film are likely like in Kubricks BARRY LYNDON
sudden interventions of terror in a film of a slow and meditative
pace. And this scenes of violence are as well a foreseeing of the
violence which will dominate in a bigger dimension the whole
As the film begins with a prayer of Pocahontas even the images of
landscapes appear to me as visual prayers: Landscapes, water, plants
or birds which do not refer to the plot obviously seem to show at the
same time nature unmoved by human actions. At the same time it is an
evocation o of a paradise -like landscape like in Kurosawas DERSU
UZALA. The images of them are upsetting because of our knowledge
about their loss.
Where reconstruction through fragmentary historic sources is
limited, Malick begins literally to dream in images. He can not know
what Pocahontas has thought or felt. He is able to make images of her
- or like it seems to me he dreams her out from the depth of time
into his images. With the coincidental discovery of Q´Orianka who
was hardly 15 years old at the time of the film was shot he got
unexpected help from the reality. The unadorned face of the
protagonist, which makes visible the inner changes of the protagonist
is at least as impressing like the face of Renée Falconetti in
Dreyers LA PASSION DE JEANNE D´ARC. The characteristics like
intelligence or gentleness, described by the journals of Smith found
here their evidentiary embodiment. The way she moves and especially
the movement of her glances, her all-seeing eyes seem to be in a
strange competition with the impressing handheld camera which finally
though their technical perfection appears as a machine which is
reproducing something. Pocahontas is not only seen (by the English
and the point of view of the camera) but she is reacting immediately
and appears from the first second of her appearance as a realized and
a realizing person. The image, Malick made from Pocahaontas is
impressing because her presence is always more than an image.
The use of the Adagio from Mozart's piano concert No. 23 as the
"love-theme" of Pocahontas and Smith seems to be at the
first sight an anachronism. This music with an almost singing piano a
close relative to Mozart's Da Ponte-operas seems to be made for this
film. It is known that Mozart (especially in his operas) was able to
transform all possible human emotions into music. And here as well
the use of Mozarts music is an interpretation. The strange
combination of eloquent lightness and deep melancholy interconnects
with Malicks Pocahontas-interpretation. The music is used 4 times,
the first and second time in unadulterated moments of happiness and
the last time at the last meeting between Pocahontas and Smith where
this happiness is only a memory. But even at the first moments of
happiness the music is as already an idea of a skepticism. We will
remember these moments and Mozart's music when Pocahontas is banished
by her tribe, uprooted and when she almost breaks mentally because of
this unhappy love to Smith. When she dies at the end of the film as
very young woman, we won´t hear the music of Mozart.
There is much more to say about this film. Among others there are
the voice overs, monologues of single persons or the mostly very
quite, almost whispered spoken dialogues which seem to be spoken in
the zone between sleep and Awareness. That is also part of the
dreamlike character of the film.
THE NEW WORLD is also an elegy on the american dream, the dream of
the first, mostly impoverished settlers from Europe about the new
world, the soon beginning nightmare of the genocide against the
aborigines - but as well the Conquerors dreams of the expanding most
powerful countries and the aggressive exploitation of the newly
In LA VIE SUR TERRE by Mauritanian Abderrahmane Sissako there is a
Malick-like voice over-comment which says that not the encounter
between Africa and Europe in itself was a tragedy but the time this
encounter took place.. This is an attitude which I can imagine as
well from THE NEW WORLD:
There are rumors that Malick at least for a DVD edition will
release a three hour long version of this film. Until then and if the
rumors become true I will be satisfied with the 135 minutes long
Rüdiger Tomczak (translation from german in shomingeki No. 18,
2. NOTES on the extended version of Terrence Malicks THE NEW WORLD
(translated from shomingeki No. 21, Summer 2009)
In October 2008 the 172 minutes long extended version of THE NEW
WORLD, edited by Malick is released on DVD. Unfortunately this
extended version of the film which was partly filmed in 65 Millimeter
won´t get a theatrical release. I already loves the 135-minutes long
version (the film was once edited from its first 150 minutes-version
to 135 minutes) and there is nothing have to regret in my very
enthusiastic critic from shomingeki No. 18.The advantages of the long
version are evident in fine details. It is less plot-oriented than
the shorter version and like expected the voice-over monologues
established by Malick since THE THIN RED LINE are more frequented.
But more striking is the fact that Pocahontas is more in the center
of the film and she is even more clear as the feeling but also
reflecting individual. Except the last chapter which takes place in
England (where only very few scenes are added)the 40 more minutes are
often in small moments divided in the film. It makes not much sense
to describe all the single moments of the added scenes. More
important is the new impression. The relation between Pocahontas and
the use of Mozart's piano concerts seems to be much clearer.
Q´orianka Kilchers performance wins in Nuances. How Kilcher (just
14 when the film was made) lets her character Pocahontas maturating
and even aging seems to be almost uncanny and it will remain
one of the secrets of this extraordinary rich film. Even though
the advantage of the long version is a matter of nuances - there is a
small scene which appears at the first moment understated but at the
second view it is probably the heart of the film. It is a dialogue
between Pocahontas/Rebecca and her uncle from her former tribe. He is
ordered by the native king to join the travel to England for
"counting the white man" and for looking for the god "they
talked so much about". In an english garden, Pocahontas/Rebecca
tells him "that she made a lot of mistakes which brought her
into this strange new world". The answer of her uncle is very
laconic. He says that "there is nothing to do about because the
white are as numerous like the grass.". She says "that she
hopes that her people will forgive her one day."(From the
context of the film we learnt that Pocahontas was banished by her
tribe and that she purposeless caused the victory of the English
against her tribe. "Her heart", she continues "has
dies several time with her people". She considers herself still
as her fathers daughter. Her uncle leaves without answering her
farewell greeting. And suddenly the smile in her face has vanished
and replaced by a melancholic expression. This small scene is so
unspectacular and subtle like a moment in a film by Yasujiro Ozu but
as well as precise. The tragic of the Pocahontas-character comes
exactly to the point. Pocahontas/Rebecca dies again one of her "many
deaths". This is the most moving moment of the film.
THE NEW WORLD appears to me (at least in this long version) as one
of the last miracles in contemporary cinema. The film once was
knocked down by a stupid film public. Among the only 4 films of his
filmography (film No. 5 is in the process of post production) THE NEW
WORLD is Terrence Malicks most beautiful film.
Another film I can´t get out of my mind, Dear Pyongyang by Yang Yonghi.
film reminds me in some films which are in its reduction of the
image-making gadget and in its transparency it is winning intensity
through the lack of a big distance between the vulnerable individual who
films and the spectator.
It is the story of the filmmaker which begins
with a historical introduction on Koreans living in Japan. After the
Korean civil war, this comunity is divided in followers who identify
themselves as North Koreans and those who consider South Korea as their
homeland. Encouraged through the economical growth in North Korea, a lot
of "North Koreans" living in Japan went to Northkorea, or in other
words "returned". Yangs father sent his three adolescent sons to
Pyongyang. They can be visited there but they can never leave the
The film is now focusing completely on Yangs family
where history occurs in small details of an average family and finally
about Yang Yong-hi herself. Since he was a young man, Yangs father
remained a communistic activist and whenever he talks about Northkorea,
he talks about a mythic paradise. The films presents every day
situations and the travels of the family to the now adult sons.
filmmaker (we learn from her off-commentary) was for a long time trying
to lead a different life, without serving her "homeland"
The long conversations between her and her father
are seemingly banal at the first sight, sometimes even funny. But after
some time we feel the drama beneath the surface of seemingly harmless
little quarrels between father and daughter. The first impact arrives
when Yang interrupts these long conversations with a serial of shots of
family photographs. On one of these photographs, we see the very young
Yang Yonghi beside her brothers during her first visit in Pyongyang. Her
face looks sad and she must have cried. The separation from her
brothers must have meant to her a very traumatic experience. She can´t
even talk in the off-commentary about all what moved her. The
traditional parental love and her worries about the brothers who live in
a country where every small contact with outside is observed with
mistrust hemmed in her a more open rebellion. There is also the fear of
lack of love when she doesn´t conform the expectations of her parents.
I saw the film the first two times, it took place in closed press
screenings. Just the third time, I saw this film in an open
Berlinale-screening. At the beginning I still found the small quarrels
between her and her father amusing.
While seeing the film third time, I could not laugh anymore.
her hands we see Yang Yonghi only on children- and youth photographs
and listen to her voice. Everything we see, we see through her eyes. For
me, the leaps through time forth and backwards seem the essential
accents which gives the film a kind of poetry. It seems to me the
aesthetical form of some one who tries to tell about herself on
different levels what is difficult to put in only in words.
kind of insight into the intimate sphere of a family which doesn´t work
for me in every documentary, evokes the feeling that someone tells us
confidential things. The film develops an unique drama between her
discomfort not to fit in her parents expectations in her commentary
contrasts with her fine observations of her family every day life. Yang
is part of this family and at the same time an outsider.
cut and we see a hospital. Yangs father has suffered under a heavy
stroke. There is an intense moment of helplessness which is burnt into
my memory. Yang Yonghi goes wit the camera to her father´s bed whose
body is connected with tubes and lines to medical machines. It looks bad
for him. He is totally defenceless exposed to her daughter´s views and
ours. At the same time we know through the film that the father made
decisions (even without bad intention) under which her daughter suffered
a lot. Then she holds with one hand her fathers hands while his voice
makes uncomrehensibles noises and at the same time her other hand serves
the the small video camera. When I saw the film the first time, I
wasn´t sure if someone should get as far. But nevertheless this moment
moved me deeply.
This moment is very close to the undefinable
feeling to be left alone with a personal sad event, like I experienced
on that terrible day in 1997 when I visited my seriously sick mother at
the emergency station of a hospital in my hometown Bochum. The feeling
of discomfort about the power parents had at least for a special period
in our lives is contrasted with the helpless fragile body of the father.
What makes this scene even harder to bear is that the filmmaker is
exposed too even if we see only her hands. I even think, I heard her
crying, but I don´t know for sure.
I don´t know anything at all anymore.
forgot the big screen and the seat where I was sitting. I was totally
divided in the terrible memory of my mother and the awareness that here
in this recorded moment, the invisible filmmaker Yang Yong-hi
experienced one of the most terrible moments of her life. Because of the
fact we can´t see her face, in my imagination she is metamorphosed back
into the sad young girl which we saw on a photograph.