The New World


The New World

The New World
(2006)
Starring: Colin Farrell, Q’Orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, August Schellenberg
Director: Terrence Mallick
Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Rated:
Studio: New Line Home Video
DVD Release Date: May 9, 2006
Run Time: 150 minutes


It seems like a dream.” So intones John Smith (an emphatic and forceful Colin Farrell) describing his time with Pocahontas (a gorgeous newcomer, Q’Orianka Kilcher) in what would come to be known as Jamestown, Virginia circa 1607.

And so much like a dream is Terence Malick’s newest “The New World.” There are long stretches of this film in which there is only action without or with minimal sound: the Native Americans going about their day-to-day lives, working, playing, training, eating and celebrating while the King James sent Englishmen, looking for a quick way from England to the “Indies,” basically go about their day scavenging for food, fighting amongst themselves and acting like savages. In fact, the Native Americans are mostly gorgeous, clean, well groomed while the supposedly civilized Englishmen are smelly, scuffy and ill-mannered. One of the funniest scenes comes at the beginning of the film when a Warrior approaches Captain Newport (Christopher Plummer) and squinches his nose due to the Captain’s body odor. There is no doubt that the peaceful, though wary and intelligent Natives as presented here: regal, civilized are superior to the intruders.

In a mesmerizing almost stuperous mist, in a land so new and fresh and rife with possibilities, where a man can begin again without the sins of his past encroaching upon and stifling him, Malick sets the scene for the beginning of “The New World.” There is such wonder, giddiness and hope in Malick’s mise en scene that you can’t help but be taken in by it all: what a chance we had to build a better world, what a chance we had to right the wrongs of our former world.

The central story is the one between Princess Pocahontas (“playful one”) and Captain John Smith who arrives in Jamestown in shackles and is almost hung for treason but Captain Newport thinks better of it and instead sends Smith on a journey up the river to find and pay respects to Chief Powhatan. Powhatan instructs Smith to teach Pocahontas English and from this a romance develops.

Malick takes his time telling this story and “The New World” is slow, quiet, often silent and elegiac: he takes the time to stop, observe and ponder what his camera is showing…no quick jump cuts here to keep us supposedly impatient viewers interested. The world of Malick’s films is a world filled with innocence and wonder: but wonder and innocence tempered with the realities of the brutal and the unforgiving. We are in Paradise here, Paradise before the fall: the fall is inevitable, of course and there is no doubt on whose doorstep the fault can be laid.


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