The New World (2005)

The New World

Genre: Drama

Cast: Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale

Synopsis: The story of Pocahontas….but with more blood and violence and less singing and dancing.

This is the second Terrence Malick film I’ve watched and, as far as I can tell, it’s pretty true to his style. The New World is similar to The Tree of Life in a lot of ways: both films have absolutely spell-binding cinematography, mesmerising art direction, poetic dialogue, and a spiritual message. However, The New World has one thing that The Tree of Life does not which, in my eyes, makes it the better film: a coherent and structured plot. Sure, it’s the plot of a Disney film but that film was in dire need of a gritty reboot.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the Disney’s Pocahontas. If not, I’ll fill you in: British people land in Virginia, meet the Native Americans, sing songs with their princess, party with racoons and hummingbirds and learn about the follies of racism before skipping off into the sunset. Even if you have a rudimentary understanding of history, you’ll see problems with this version. For starters, it skips out the whole ‘let’s kill Native Americans for their land’ thing as well as Pocahontas being killed by white man’s disease….unless that was saved for Pocahontas 2. The thing that’s great about The New World is that it does not skip on all the horrors that took place at this point in history. Famine and disease? Yeah that happened. Atrocities against Native Americans? Yeah that’s shown. Cutting off someone’s ears because they let the food rot?…..I guess that could have happened.

One thing the Disney version also got wrong: John Smith was a bastard! Well, Mel Gibson voices him in the Disney version so I guess they didn’t get it THAT wrong. Basically, John Smith was a player. He romances Pocahontas and then ditches her when he gets bored. What’s worse, a few months down the line he gets one of his friends to tell her he’s dead. What a cunt! Who does that!? John Smith, that’s who. Poor Christian Bale. He is essentially Pocahontas’ rebound guy. Who rebounds with Christian Bale? Pocahontas, that’s who. She’s my idol. I wish I could snag Batman as a rebound.

Speaking of Pocahontas, I should talk a little about her. Q’orianka Kilcher plays the role perfectly and manages to effectively convey the character’s innocence and spirituality. It’s hard not to fall in love with her as she runs about the meadows all care-free and as she sees beauty in nature and wonder in some of the smallest and most mundane things. In addition to handling Pocahontas’ innocence with ease, Kilcher also manages to navigate the scenes which require a deeper emotional response. The scene in which she breaks down in tears after she learns of John Smith’s “death” was particularly tragic. Even more tragic was the fact that some woman begins to pet her like a dog after she starts crying. Poor timing lady.

Many consider this film to be an underrated masterpiece and, after getting so baked I thought I could paint with all the colours of the wind, I can confirm that I too subscribe to that opinion. There’s something truly magical and enchanting about this film and there are so many good things I could say about it. I can’t give the film a full ten out of ten because it does have its flaws: it’s slow-paced and very long. However, if you allow yourself to get lost in the story and sumptuous visuals then these will not pose much of a problem.

High-lights:

  • Mind-blowing cinematography and sound editing/mixing. The film’s a real treat for the senses.
  • The opening sequence and scene is utterly orgasmic.
  • I loved the film’s spiritual message. I don’t consider myself a religious man but, if I were to subscribe to a religion, it would be Pocahontas’. Or at least one that lets me smoke substances and frolic in nature and thunderstorms while looking happy at times and, at other times, pensive.
  • Sad yet life-affirming ending.

Downers:

  • Quite slow-paced.
  • It makes me sad that that I will never be able to live the Native American way….mainly because our ancestors massacred the Native Americans and stole their land. Now I’m really sad.
  • Colin Farrell’s face makes me laugh at times.

Summary:

Sure, Terrence Malick’s films are kind of pretentious and meandering but, when the end result is so beautiful, can you really complain? I would recommend this film to anyone who enjoys historical dramas with a touch of beauty. If you’ve seen the Disney film and want to experience something a little more accurate and depressingly life-affirming then this is the movie for you.

9.5/10

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9 Comments

Filed under Drama, Mind Blowingly Awesome

9 responses to “The New World (2005)

  1. I was recently reading about this one, what a coincidence! Have been meaning to see it for ages. Glad to hear it doesn’t shy away from the actual historical truth. A most excellent baked review.

  2. Haven’t seen this in awhile, but I do remember it being like any other Malick film. Pretty to gaze at, but the story itself is a bit loosey goosey for its own good. Good review.

  3. Abbi

    Best line in a review ever: “after getting so baked I thought I could paint with all the colours of the wind, I can confirm that I too subscribe to that opinion”

  4. I have never even heard of this movie, but it sounds like it was a really interesting watch. Especially if we get to see a bunch of half-naked Christian Bale in a rebound scenario. Do we see a bunch of half-naked Bale? *drool*

  5. Great review man! Really enjoyed this. My favourite Malick after Badlands. But yeah, visually incredible. Great spiritual message too!

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