Bobby Platt is a mentally slow young man who escapes an abusive, hateful stepfather who has killed his pets one by one. To save himself, Bobby runs away and meets a strange old man who ... See full summary »
Captain Smith is spared his mutinous hanging sentence after captain Newport's ship arrives in 1607 to found Jamestown, an English colony in Virginia. The initially friendly natives, who have no personal property concept, turn hostile after a 'theft' is 'punished' violently on the spot. During an armed exploration, Smith is captured, but spared when the chief's favorite daughter Pocahontas pleads for the stranger who soon becomes her lover and learns to love their naive 'savage' way of harmonious life. Ultimately he returns to the grim fort, which would starve hadn't she arranged for Indian generosity. Alas, each side soon brands their own lover a traitor, so she is banished and he flogged as introduction to slavish toiling. Changes turn again, leading Smith to accept a northern-more mission and anglicized Pocahontas, believing him dead, becoming the mother of aristocratic new lover John Rolfe's son. They'll meet again for a finale in England. Written by
Beautiful Marriage of Aural and Visual Meditations on Discovery
"The New World" has an opening five minutes where Natives rush to the shore to get a view of the massive British ships that are about to land on what would become Jamestown that are every bit as fantastic as any of the scenes in Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey". It's a perfect marriage of sound effects, music and visuals that literally paints itself onto the celluloid as a jaw dropping work of art. The nature of "discovery" and the power of film is boldly on display in Terrence Malick's brave "New World."
Some viewers will undoubtedly get lost in the visual and aural poetry, while others will be annoyed at the lack of a focused narrative and the sometimes sketchy character motives. This is a historical drama, and the amazing sets, costumes, and make-up attest to the wonderful attention to period detail, but there's also a dreamy surreal nature to the pacing that will lull some to sleep who were expecting a more traditional docudrama. This is more about the myth of Pocahantas and channeling ghosts than it is about the actual history behind the story. The dialog is as evasive and minimal as the visuals are overwhelming and painstaking. Plotting is secondary to the mood and meditations on love, discovery, curiosity, innocence, and the clashing of cultures.
Malick does a great job at showing the civilized and barbaric sides of both the Natives and the British. It's a wonderful testament to that first realization that there is intelligent life outside of one's own world. Central to this discovery of the "New World" is the romance between John Smith (a modest Colin Farrel) and Pocahantas (an amazing Q'Orianka Kilcher) which is displayed with just as much wide eyed-wonder and innocence as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Christian Bale as John Rolfe and Christopher Plummer as Captain Newport are also very good when they are allowed to act amongst the lush scenery. Composer James Horner, who is probably second only to John Williams in creating unforgettable movie music, outdoes himself as his rousing symphony (coupled with divine music from Wagner) perfectly matches the reverence and awe with which Malick uses his visuals to paint the myth on screen.
Some judicious editing may have benefited the middle portion of the film, which amounts to scene after beautiful scene of two people falling in love while worshiping nature, but there are two more series of scenes (one in the middle and one at the end) that are every bit as uplifting as the opening one and serve as a perfect synergy of visual and aural delights that completely transported this patient viewer to another realm. I'm not so sure that this is what it was really like to live in 1607, but I have no doubt this is what the people of that time dreamed about.
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