Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
|Featuring||Colin Farrell, Christopher Plummer, Christopher Newport, Q’Orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, David Thewlis, Noah Taylor, Irene Bedard|
|Distributor||New Line Cinema|
“Once discovered, it was changed forever”
The original film “The New World” contains a story about an old world, created by a director whose gifts come from another world. A true artist and certainly a poet, Director Terrence Malick has forsaken taking another twenty-year hiatus (as he did from 1978 to 1998) before making his latest film about the English arriving and settling in America. He has conceived, once again, a beautiful production that at its very heart engages its audience in a love story amidst adverse circumstances and harsh conditions. Its themes are intricate and moving, and clearly resonate with his three other films “Badlands”, “Days of Heaven”, and “The Thin Red Line”.
It is Virginia 1607 when three ships arrive from England filled with people eager to begin a new life in a new land. On board is Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell) who is being held prisoner for treason, but soon released and commissioned by Captain Newport (Christopher Plummer) to lead a brigade upriver and find food. The mission is to meet with natives and conduct a trade for necessities, but in the process all Smith’s men are lost, and he alone survives. It is in captivity that Smith meets the beautiful young Native American girl “Pocahontas” (Q’orianka Kilcher) and falls helplessly in love with her. Because of their bond, each of their lives is inexorably different, and while their love is true, it is not always ideal.
As with most of his movies, Malick refrains from using foul language and nudity to tell his story. There are some intimate situations between John Smith and Pocahontas, but the emphasis is on them talking and looking each other in the eyes rather than emphasizing something sexual. A few times Pocahontas does have a somewhat meager outfit on, but as Producer Sarah Green explained, women of these tribes actually went topless. Green says that the reason they chose not to have the women portrayed this way is because they wanted this film to be seen by everyone. The film does carry a PG-13 rating due to some intense battle scenes, but these refrain from being gratuitous as well.
The issue of Pocahontas’s explicit faith in Christ is expressed towards the end of this film in a brief scene where she is baptized. At this point she has fully decided to become a Christian. Besides this, there is not much emphasis placed on her Christianity, per se. However, throughout the course of the story, both her and John Smith are portrayed as highly spiritual people. As with all of Malick’s films, there is a voice-over narration by various characters, and at times reveals not only their inner thoughts, but also divine prayers to God. These soliloquy-like moments in this film are certainly open to interpretation, and include such statements as, “Come, Spiritwe rise from out of the soul of you,” (Pocahontas); “Who are you, whom I faintly hear? Who leads me ever on? Where? I will not die until I find it,” (Smith); “Father, where do you live? Show me your face. Give me a sign,” (Pocahontas); and, “Lord, we have gone away from You.” (Smith)
There is too much to appreciate about the poetic filmmaker Terrence Malick. It seems that his work truly lies in what makes film the exceptional medium that it is, namely story, photography, and natural acting—and how he is able to orchestrate these elements harmoniously. Besides the fact that the film is shot entirely on location (around the actual area that these historical events originally occurred in Virginia), Malick’s process is very much an organic one. For example, he only uses natural lighting while filming. Furthermore, actors Q’orianka Kilcher and Christian Bale shared how Malick would often have them scrap their lines if they were getting in the way and hindering the emotion and nonverbal communication occurring during a scene. Malick’s approach is one that supports Green’s statement that his films have a “very deep understanding of humanity,” and that this film, “The New World”, is a “love story in a natural setting.”
As for the historical accuracy of the film, it is noted that there is poetic license taken to tell this story. The original journals of John Smith and John Rolfe (Christian Bale) were utilized and incorporated in writing the script, but the goal was not to make a documentary about the events. Malick has used these resources, but has also interpreted their ideas, inserting some of his own, and rewritten them more poetically. At the same time the film does include actual unarguable events, such as how Pocahontas was a life-saving aid to Smith and the English people. In Smith’s journals he writes, “She [Pocahontas], next under God, was the instrument to preserve this colony from death, famine and utter confusion.” This fact is undoubtedly portrayed in the film.
This film is more like the story of Romeo and Juliet than a movie such as “Braveheart”. It is not out to rewrite history, but does seem to explore the intricacies of a relationship between a man and a woman, namely John Smith and Pocahontas, and how it may have been between them. You may not find the action within this film that you anticipate, but it is one that will certainly not leave you bereft of meaning.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor
See our interview with the Producer of this film, Sarah Green.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.