The New World (2005)

The New World (2005)You can never pass up a chance to catch a Terrence Malick film, even just to see what he has been doing. This time catching The New World (2005) the latest version of the Pocahontas story which I recently read may never have actually happened, more a fabrication to romanticise the first men to arrive on the then untouched continent. Pocahontas did indeed exist, so did John Smith, it’s just very doubtful they met, the Native Powhatan would have been far younger at the time when she saved the lucky captains life. It could be as author Thomas King suggests is just a story fabricating by Captain John Smith that has lasted from his first arrived in Virginia in 1607. He is believed to have brought it back to life Pocahontas arrived in England 1616 at royal request. There is some fact in their, which itself has become one of the early legends to emerge from America.

That’s not to take away from this film, it’s just the context from which I view this film. It carries on that legend with a touch of Malick to boot. His previous film The Thin Red Line (1999) focused on WWII and the men who were fighting the Pacific islands. There was still an equal balance between the landscape cinematography which makes the film so breath-taking to watch and the inclusion of the actors. Which over recent films has been paired back considerably. The same can be seen in The New World with a clear narrative in place, there is a story to tell, one that really suits Malick’s direction. As a British crew arrives on what would become Virginia a group of settlers begin a new life, hopefully co-existing with the Natives or “Naturals” for as long as possible. I can’t help but think of all the events that are to follow and how they could have been so different with this mindset.

Obviously the peace cannot last between the two people and the first of many conflicts begin. Amongst all of this a, romance between at native woman, daughter of the chief Powhatan and the captain of the settlers. After saving him from certain death, it’s up to her to learn all she can from him. It’s going well between Smith (Colin Farrell) and Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher) a whirl wind romance, based on the exploration of two different worlds coming together, learning from one another and ultimately loving each other which costs them both in different ways.

I’ve never really been a massive fan of Farrell (he is growing on me) here is feels strained, not used to the introspective world of Malick unlike Christian Bale‘s (John Rolfe) who saves the film after Smith is recalled to lead his own missions. Giving more depth to the film opposite the increasingly westernised Pocahontas/Rebecca who is fast becoming an upstanding member of the new community and the civilised world. There seems to be some harmony between the tribe and the settlers who increase in numbers, It’s not really explored, instead looking at her relationships. She is the real centre of the film, as she leaves one untouched world of nature to one that has been shaped by centuries of development and history, a culture that comes to admire and love her.

Ultimately that shots without dialogue and actors are the money shots that make this film worth watching. The subject matter is secondary to the serene landscape shots of the new world that is ripe for exploring, using the camera as a form of recording the past, the old new world comes alive once more, and is still there is you look hard enough to enjoy and appreciate it. I wonder if the tale of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith were really true, or just the first of many legends to come out of the country that is both rich is fact as it is in fiction. Sometimes the fiction is more romantic than the fact.

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6 responses

  1. Great write-up, I’ve always been interested in this one but haven’t got around to it yet. Consider it escalated on the list!

    May 21, 2014 at 1:56 am

    • Cheers Anna, glad you like it. I had never heard of this until it was about to start on TV so I’m just as bad as you haha

      May 21, 2014 at 9:42 am

  2. I liked it more than disliked it. I think Colin elevates all films up a notch. Nice review!

    May 21, 2014 at 2:16 am

    • It’s not perfect I admit but worth it just for Mallick alone.

      May 21, 2014 at 9:42 am

  3. It’s a beautiful movie and actually changes the way we look at the story of John Smith and Pocahontas. Also, nice to see Christian Bale play a sweet, tender man for once. Good review Tim.

    May 21, 2014 at 5:15 am

    • Cheers Dan. Always good to see Batman out of the bat-suit.

      May 21, 2014 at 9:44 am

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