The New World (2005) Directed by Terrence Malick. With Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale and Christopher Plummer.
Written and directed by Terrence Malick, The New World is a story of overlapping narratives set against the backdrop of the English exploration of Virginia in the early 1600’s. Part love story, part historical epic – the film centres on the burgeoning relationship between Captain Smith (Colin Farrell) and Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher).
Newcomer Q’orianka Kilcher embodies a spirit of innocence in the role of Pocahontas. The sight of her playing joyously in the fields speaks of a purity long-since sacrificed at the altar of progress in the new world. This alone is a beautiful portrait of the life of the native American; a simple life with no sense of possession, one in which freedom is like oxygen – everywhere.
Working with Emmanuel Lubezki, the Mexican cinematographer who would go on to win two Oscars for his astonishing work on Gravity and Birdman – Malick utilises the camera as a tool to express poetry through simple images of nature – be it a tree, a plant, a river or the sky. What this achieves is breadth and depth, as these images of beauty are often used incidentally to remind us what a wonderful place the world can be. During the last act, the undiluted bloom of the natural lands are given extra resonance when mirrored against the grey, cobbled streets of England in the 1600’s.
The narrative itself appears to drift, from time-to-time, which causes some minor periods of detachment. This might be in part a consequence of the films intersecting narrative paths; whatever the reason – it doesn’t detract from the impressive sense of time and place that is achieved.
James Horner’s music befits the romantic sweep of the piece, also underscoring the regular visions of natural beauty. As things pick up, it begins to take on a biographical structure – focusing primarily on the changing world of Pocahontas. Her life with Captain Smith and the subsequent struggle. Her introduction to Christian Bale’s John Rolfe, and the warring emotions that pervade.
The New World offers an interesting angle on what is documented about the real people involved. Caution should be applied when assuming a film to be a history lesson, but Malick makes a fine job of ensuring his film has an emotional centre to help us connect with the characters and their varying plights. The film ‘stars’ the likes of Colin Farrell and Christian Bale – but the real stars are Malick and his directory of photography. 4/5