Thursday, January 12, 2006

The New World

Was watching "The Making of 'The New World'" this evening, and had to share. I'm not an expert, but it looked fairly accurate from what I could tell. The war paint on the Natives is a bit of... a stretch. The Native American actors who portray them collaborated with the makeup artists to create "their own look" basically. They wanted the war paint to be an "extension of the individual" and for them to be "walking works of art." ... So basically, it probably has little basis in history because the director and the art director wanted things to look interesting and exotic over historical as far as the Natives' war paint was concerned... and if there's a justification for that, I suppose it would be to contrast the Natives with the englishness of the settlers. So when you see warriors wearing small snakes literally as earrings... that's not CG and they are *real* living snakes.

However, the sets of the Powhatan village and the Jamestown fort were meticulously reconstructed with the assistance and supervision of the archaeologists who dug up and mapped the real things about 7 miles from where the filming took place. Both sets are the actual size of the real historic places and they are 360 degree sets... basically *real* villages constructed with the same materials as the originals. They shot everything as close to where history sets the events as they could without stumbling over real historic sites or modern cities, and all daytime scenes were shot using only natural light to give it a clean, real look. The actors found it very freeing because they could take the scenes essentially anywhere on the sets they wanted to go in that moment, and they didn't have a difficult time staying in the moment because besides the crew and one or two cameras there wasn't any equipment to avoid or to distract them from being in early 17th century Virginia. I have to give them kudos for going to all that trouble.

Everybody went through boot camp. All of the natives did exercises not only to learn how to use the weapons and get in shape, but also to learn the physicality of the Powhatan people... how to move in a non-modern way... How to walk, all the dances, how to move silently while stalking, the way of speaking and all the little idiosyncrasies that have been lost to time. One of the actors who played a warrior said it was like learning a new language... a language that was dormant in their blood. That's beautiful...

The Englishmen went to boot camp to learn how to build the fort, what daily life in the fort was like, and how to fight, basically... and some of them had dialect lessons.

Apparently, the director likes using spontaneous moments and there will be quite a few scenes that are almost entirely improvised in the movie... One of the crew says the director was trying to "capture life on the whim." Looking forward to seeing that. Oh, and he's also not afraid of letting silence speak. Some scenes will have no music and only natural background noise... birds, water, etc. So that when the music is there it's more meaningful and when there is no sound it's more meaningful. Kinda makes me want to see more of this guy's movies. (Oh, and the guy who did all the music is James Horner, the guy who did "Titanic"'s music.)

And, I just have to add, Colin Farrell cooing over and playing with the babies in the Indian village is just about the cutest thing ever...

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