The New World
Terrence Malick :: USA :: 2005 :: 2h16
A love story between a British soldier Smith and Pocahontas, the daughter of an Indian Chief, in the beginning of the European colonization of the Americas. The backdrop shows the tense relations between the two civilizations, which oscillate between the cooperative and the violent. Pocahontas rescues Smith and the colonists several times, despite the groups’ frequent animosity. Although in love with Pocahontas, Smith leaves on a further exploration trek, and has her told that he died. Heartbroken, her life drags on, but she is granted an unexpected upturn.
The general story of Pocahontas is well known, although it seems as if it is changed at every occasion. Here, the title should have included the name of Pocahontas, as the director homes in on her experience, and not on the ‘New World’. A similar issue arises with the rest of the marketing, which gives the impression you are about to watch a historical/ thriller type movie intended to contribute to the mythology surrounding the colonization of the Americas. It seems as if the director himself was also at odds between making a such a movie and one which mystifies human relations. Because of this discrepancy between presentation and content, the viewer is surprised to find (beautiful) poetical content tucked away in a movie which is uncertain about its intentions.
Those exceptional scenes are of Pocahontas interacting with her environment. They are embellished with well chosen words and a matching original edit. The most noteworthy are the tenderness scenes of Pocahontas with Smith. They are presented to us using a mixing images out of chronological order, with colors and sounds as if they were taken from memory. The focus on details -movements and gestures – is reminiscent of contemporary French drama. I can not help but think that the whole movie should just have been focused on her. The actress Q’orianka Kilcher, who plays Pocahontas, is captivating, as is the way the director dealt with her scenes. As it stands, the movie is excessively long for what it is, and should have been intensified to concentrate on its lyrical strengths. A pity.