Double feature: Here are two entrancing, profoundly Romantic films whose differing versions of Romanticism undercut each other’s major claims.
“The New World,” a narrative film, and “Burden of Dreams,” a documentary about the making of a narrative film, both depict ambitious ventures in unfamiliar territories. But the Romanticism of the former film is one of response, of emotion; that of the latter is one of deeds and results.
Time is a partner in “The New World,” an opponent in “Burden of Dreams.” Where the former sees the natural world as a wellspring of renewal and consolation, the latter provides evidence for nature’s inherent chaos and indifference. Where “The New World” highlights the transience and vanity of man’s efforts, “Burden of Dreams” points to their potential nobility.
Both films have their excesses – of lyricism and moony eyes in “The New World,” and of bravado and appropriated imagery in “Burden of Dreams.” But both depict intercultural encounters with sensitivity and complexity.
To counterbalance the telegraphic, sometimes stilted exchanges between members of these cultures, both films linger on the flow of their principals’ streams of consciousness. The narrative film does so via voiceovers of internal monologue; the documentary via its subject’s enviably polished, camera-directed confessionals.
Both eloquently depict the risks inherent in commitment, whether to a scheme, a worldview, or a person. Despite this, both inspire a longing for increased engagement with the outside world: for deepening your ties to your immediate environment, and for broadening the particular swath of the world with which you can claim a connection.
For a marathon: The circumstances depicted in “Hearts of Darkness” are remarkably similar to those found within “Burden of Dreams.” Driven by a desire for authenticity of environment – a backdrop of reality for a foreground of artifice – both filmmaker subjects must square their need for control with the entropy of the natural world.
(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “Virginian Highlander” and “Patent and the Pantry” at Flickr)