The New World
starring Colin Farrell, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, August Schellenber, Wes Studi, David Thewlis, Yorik van Wageningen and Q’orianka Kilcher
written and directed by Terrence Malick
This is the second of Terrence Malick’s four feature films that I have watched. It is a dramatization of the famous story of the teenaged American Indian “princess,” Pocahontas, who saved English explorer, Captain John Smith, from death at the hands of enraged Native Americans in 1607 when the first English colonial settlement in America, Jamestown, took shape at the mouth of the James River in what is today the state of Virginia. Pocahontas is played by the girl with the strange name, Q’orianka Kilcher.
When I told friends at work that I watched “The New World,” the Terrence Malick dramatization of the Pocahontas story, over the weekend they thought I was talking about the Disney animated film, “Pocahontas,” and they were suddenly suspicious of me and my taste in films.
Visually, it is a startling film and lovely to look at, just like Malick’s 1998 movie, The Thin Red Line (starring James Caviezel). As a one-time nature documentarian, Malick has a thing for the sounds of nature - birdsong, wind in the leaves - and the play of light off of things in motion - sunlight shining through the foliage, reflecting off the water, captured in a face, etc. In The Thin Red Line it was the sound of the wind sweeping the kunai grass of Guadalcanalaccompanied by sweet sounding Melanesian Christian Gospel music. But in The New World it is the songbirds of the Virginia forest that captures his attention, and ours. I was reminded of Kevin Costner’s 1990 film, Dances With Wolves. Union Army soldier John Dunbar is anxious to see the American western frontier which was already quickly disappearing, and when he arrives on the Prairies he becomes enamored with the prairie grass. Wow.
Like Dances With Wolves, The New World is a great chance to see Native American actors.
This film is well worth watching, but I don’t think you will learn much that is authentic and factual about the first English settlement in America - or about Native Americans either, for that matter.