The New World (2005) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • 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.

  • When 17th century explorer John Smith and a few men go up the river to trade with the Indians, he befriends the princess Pocahontas and they fall in love. While in love, Smith must obtain his duties as president of Jamestown fort and challenges to himself what is the better path for himself to take: stay with the fallen apart colony or go up the river and love Pocahontas in the wild. The Indians realize that the English do not mean to leave, so they attack. A few men at the fort decide to capture Pocahontas as a hostage so the Indians will not attack them. Smith is ordered to leave Jamestown by the King, and John Rolfe, a wealthy tobacco planter arrives at the fort. Pocahontas, now living there adapts to the English cultures and falls in love with Rolfe. She falls apart deciding who she is dedicated to, Smith or Rolfe.

  • In the beginning of the Seventeenth Century, along the English colonization of North America, Captain John Smith leaves the Jamestown fort to explore another area and trade with the Indians, but he is captured. The princess Pocahontas asks her father to spare Captain Smith's life and they fall in love for each other. When he returns to the colony, he becomes the president of Jamestown and finds people starving, but Pocahontas brings supplies, saves them and falls in disgrace with her people. When the Indians realize that the English will not leave their country, they attack and after a bloody battle, the English trade Pocahontas and lodge her in the fort to protect their families, and Captain Smith loses his position because he does not agree with the arrangement. With the return of Captain Newport, Captain Smith is promoted and sent back to England, and he asks a friend to tell Pocahontas that he drowned along the trip. Pocahontas is civilized and baptized by the English and John Rolfe proposes and marries her. Many years later, she hears that Captain Smith is alive, and she has to decide if she keeps her marriage or follows her heart.

  • The story of the English exploration of Virginia, and of the changing world and loves of Pocahontas.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Over a shot of trees reflected in water, a girl, Pocahontas, invokes a spirit to sing the the story of our land. We see her, reaching up to the sky.

    After a title sequence, over which nature sounds are heard, we see a shot of Native Americans swimming underwater, Pocahontas and her brother, as others on the shore point to something. Three ships come into view, and a title tells us this is Virginia, 1607.

    Aboard the one of the ships we see Captain Newport giving instructions, as others look out at the new world. In the brig is Captain Smith, who catches fresh water on his face.

    Native Americans, including Pocahontas rush to the shore to wonder at this sight.

    A landing party from the ships comes ashore.

    Captain Smith, about to be hanged on shore, is pardoned by Captain Newport, to the dismay of Wingall.

    As Captain Smith explores the land alone, Captain Newport decides to stay where they are. He warns the settlers not to disturb or anger the Natives, because they may need to trade with them. He says once they are settled, they will go north to find a route to the other sea.

    The Natives encounter the settlers for the first time, sniffing them. The settlers show some trepidation. Pocahontas and her brother watch from a distance.

    In voice over, Smith says they are kind and timid. Newport, worried about a native attack, orders them English to sleep aboard their ships, and instructs them to start building a fort in the morning. Slackers, he says, will be whipped.

    He warns them that they are not there to pillage, but to start a new colony.

    As they build a fort, the Natives watch them in puzzlement, and try to communicate with them.

    Pocahontas and her brother dance in the fields, and, when she is alone, Smith sees her for the first time.

    Some of the settlers steal food from their supplies, and more is ruined by the bad weather. A man is sentenced to have his ears cut off.

    A Native who picks up an axe from the fort is shot and killed by a settler. Smith makes a show of putting the settler's head underwater in front of the Natives as punishment.

    Newport warns them that they have lost the favour of the Naturals. He also says that had they not sighted land the day they did, he would have turned back. Many of the settlers are sick, others are about to mutiny. Their supplies are low.

    He has spoken to Natives who say there is a city up river. He proposes to send an envoy to this city to trade. He himself will return to England, and Radcliffe will be in charge.

    As it is a hazardous mission, Smith, the only professional soldier in the outfit, is picked to lead it.

    A group of settlers, with some Natives set out up the river. In voiceover, Smith talks of making a new start, where the blessing of the earth are bestowed on all, a true commonwealth with no landlords or high rents.

    When they land, a Native escapes. A smaller group of three settlers and a Native continue up river.

    In full armour, Smith loses the Native in the high grass. He becomes disorientated in the swamp. He is shot at with two arrows. Finding it hard to fight back from a Native attack, he is captiured. The Natives examine his belongings, a compass he tries to explain what it is for. Tying his hands and blindfolding him, they take him to their village.

    There, in a longhouse, he meets their chief. A Native hands the chief a hand presumably belonging to one of Smith's party. The Natives and Smith talk he tells them he's from the East. The chief tells him he must go. Smith insists they cannot leave until spring. He tries to trade, showing them gunpowder.

    Smith, believing he is about to be killed, lies there as Pocahontas throws herself on him. The chief's brother tells him to kill him. But he says he can teach Pocahontas about the world.

    Smith takes part in some kind of ceremony, and is carried out of the longhouse. The chief's brother says that if they do no leave, they must drive them into the sea.

    As the Natives gather corn and practise their archery, Smith wanders their village. He teaches Pocahontas English. There is a growing tenderness between them.

    Smith talks in voiceover about how Pocahontas is the king's favourite daughter. They are seen talking, and Smith practises fighting with a group of Native males. He begins to get accepted into the group.

    He talks about how they are gentle, faithful and lacking in guile and trickery, no sense of possession.

    Smith and Pocahontas play together. One evening in the village, Pocahontas's father asks her to promise him she will remain loyal to her people, and warns her that Smith is not of of them.

    At the shore, Pocahontas gives Smith a feather, he touches her face and kisses her.

    In voiceover, he asks if we shall deny love when it visits us, and the Natives are seen putting out their fishing nets. He says there is only this, all else is unreal.

    Pocahontas asks mother, where do you live? In the sky? The clouds? The sea? Show me your face. Give me a sign. We rise, we rise.

    Smith shows Pocahontas his drawings of English towns. He dances around a fire with the other Natives.

    Smith and Pocahontas share a few moments together before he is led back to the English fort, where the Natives give him food, on the understanding from the King that they will leave come spring. He is told there is no sea beyond the mountains, just a land that has no end.

    Smith finds the fort a stark, grey place. Many of the settlers are sick, others have died. Others constantly argue over trivial things. Buildings are left unfinished. Smith and Wingall Argue. He is told his has been found guilty in a trial. Other settlers join the argument.

    Wingall is shot. Smith is put in charge of the colony. He finds their crops have failed. He orders everyone to dig a well. Some of the settlers pointlessly dig for gold.

    Settlers gather around a fire, boiling their belts for sustenance. Another settler reports that one has died and his hands have been eaten.

    Smiths wishes to go back up the river, to live with Pocahontas in the wild.

    As winter arrives things get worse for the settlers. They are only saved when Pocahontas, against her father's wishes, brings them some fresh food. Smith and Pocahontas talk. She asks him why he hasn't come to her. He tells her not to trust him. He says she doesn't know who he is.

    She, in voiceover, wonders who he is.

    Going up river to trade with a Native, Smith spends time with Pocahontas. He asks if she wants him to go back to be with her again.

    Pocahontas is chided by her father for giving the settlers seeds. He realises the English do no intend to leave. She visits the fort at night. She tells Smith to make peace with the Natives. She asks him to come away with her. Here, at the fort, he is cynical about the idea. He warns her that people will find out that she came.

    The Natives attack the fort. The settlers fight back. During the battle, Pocahontas's brother is killed. The Natives enter the fort. For telling the settlers of the impending attack, Pocahontas is sent to live with another tribe.

    The settlers plan take Pocahontas from her exile, in exchange for a copper kettle, knowing they will not be attacked while she is at the fort. Smith disagrees with this plan, and is replaced as the president of the colony, and is tortured and made to work chopping wood for his disobedience.

    Pocahontas arrives at the settlement, and Captain Newport returns to the colony with more settlers, forcing the Natives to sue to peace.

    Pocahontas visits Smith while he is chopping timber, and again they spend time together in the forest.

    Captain Newport asks Smith if he wants to bring charges against Argall, and Smith indicates that he does not. Newport tells Smith that the King has requested Smith lead an expedition to find a passage to the Indies via the North.

    An English newcomer, Mary, begins to look after Pocahontas, who, we are told, has given up her name. Mary washes Pocahontas, and dresses her in English clothes and shows her how to walk in shoes. In voiceover, Pocahontas says she will find joy in all she sees.

    Talking to the settlers, Captain Newport tells them that Eden lies about them, and that they have shed the bondage of the old world, and should set a fresh example for humanity. He says their youth is their strength, and their inexperience their wisdom. He says they should prepare a land where man can rise to his true stature.

    Smith leaves instructions with his friend, Ben, that Pocahontas should be told he has drowned two months after he leaves.

    Pocahontas cries when he leaves. She is shown learning to read and write. Mary tells her she should forget about Smith, as he told her a pack of lies. Ben tells her he has died. She covers her face in ash, and wanders the settlement, as if she is lost and alone.

    The settlers burn a Native village, forcing its inhabitants to leave. Pocahontas is seen lying in the mud between two buildings. She gives water to a man in stocks.

    John Rolfe, a newcomer, is shown watching her. In voiceover, he talks about how when he first saw her, she was regarded as finished, broken, and that she barely noticed the others around her. He asks to spend the afternoon with her.

    Mary says that Pocahontas's nature can turn trouble into good, that when a branch breaks off a tree, the tree keeps reaching towards the light.

    Rolfe teaches Pocahontas about the months of the year, she asks him what a day is, what an hour is. She asks him why the Earth has colours.

    Pocahontas is baptised with the name Rebecca. She begins to work in the fields for John Rolfe. She asks him if he is kind, they embrace. Over scenes of her attempting to catch crickets, Rolfe is heard saying that she weaves things together. He asks her to marry him. She asks where they would live, he says either in Virginia or England. She hesitates, and cries, he asks why, and she tells him she supposes she must be happy.

    They are married by Captain Newport.

    She gives birth to a child, a boy, named Thomas.

    Time passes.

    John Rolfe announces that back in England, the King has requested a royal audience in Pocahontas/Rebecca's honour.

    Smith is shown on the desolate coast of Greenland.

    Outside the fort, Pocahontas/Rebecca, overhears two women talking about Smith's travels, and she realises that he is still alive.

    Pocahontas/Rebecca tells Rolfe that she is married to Smith. Rolfe tells her she does not know the meaning of the word.

    Leaving for England, Pocahontas/Rebecca speaks to her uncle on the ship, he has been sent by her father to see the God the English speak so much about, and to place a notch in sticks for every Englishman he sees.

    Arriving in England, people bow before Pocahontas/Rebecca. She and the other Natives have never seen a place like this before.

    At her audience with the King, Rolfe watches as she is presented. Pocahontas/Rebecca and the King inspect animals from the new world, including a raccoon in a cage.

    In the manicured grounds of an English house, Pocahontas's uncle is seen wandering in the cold, looking at the carefully sculpted gardens.

    Smith arrives at Rolfe's estate. Rolfe appears ready to let Pocahontas/Rebecca reunite with Smith. She tells Rolfe that he is the man she thought he was.

    A dishevelled Smith arrives at the Rolfe's house. Pocahontas/Rebecca meets with him. Initially she does not speak as he talks about her. She realises that she has moved on and he has not.

    Pocahontas/Rebecca asks Smith if he found his indies. He says he may have sailed past them.

    He tells her what they knew in the forest was the only truth. Pocahontas/Rebecca bows to him as they part.

    Pocahontas/Rebecca takes Rolfe's arm, and asks him if they can go home. He tells her they will, as soon as possible. She calls him my husband and they kiss.

    Pocahontas/Rebecca is shown watching Rolfe and Thomas play. In their garden, Pocahontas/Rebeccas play a game of hide and seek. In voiceover, we hear her say mother, now I know where you live.

    Over scenes of her playing in the garden and ill in bed, in voiceover, Rolfe is heard writing a letter to Thomas, telling her that Pocahontas/Rebecca fell ill at Gravesend, on their outward passage back to Virginia. He says that she gently reminded him that all must die, and it is enough that their child shall live.

    We see Pocahontas/Rebecca running through the garden, and turning cartwheels.

    Rolfe and Thomas are seen returning on the ship. There are shots of lakes, streams and trees in America. A leaf is shown falling from a tree.

    End credits.

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