Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The New World

The New World; drama, USA, 2005; D: Terrence Malick, S: Colin Farrell, Q'orianka Klicher, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, Wes Studi, David Thewlis

In 1607, a British expedition arrives at the shores of America in order to establish a colony, Virginia, and then leaves for supplies. Among the people who stay is John Smith, who gets caught by the Native Americans. The Chief wants to execute him, but his daughter Pocahontas persuades him to spare his life. Smith and Pocahontas fall in love, but when she arrives to live in his settlement, it causes a tragic battle. When offered a lifetime chance to lead an expedition to explore America, Smith accepts but instructs his associates to tell Pocahontas that he died. Years pass and Pocahontas becomes a "naturalized" European citizen by accepting the name Rebecca. She marries John Rolfe. On her trip to London, she meets the King and finds out that Smith is alive. She falls ill and dies.

After three excellent films in a (desultory) row, director Terrence Malick somehow did not manage to repeat the success a fourth time with "The New World", his only movie in the 2000s. Just like Malick's previous achievements, his version of "Pocahontas" is also a meditative, abstract and deliberately vague story - but unlike those previous films, where that vague tone was reimbursed by amazing images, engaging emotions and stimulative philosophical contemplations (especially in "The Thin Red Line"), here the emotions don't manage to engage, the images don't seem so special whereas the philosophical touch is diminished. It would be a sin to say that "World" is a "rump" version of Malick's talent, yet it simply doesn't reach the viewers the way it could and should. One of the bigger flaws are thin characters - for instance, in one sequence John Smith narrates how Pocahontas was the Chief's favorite daughter because she is so special, kind and enchanting - unfortunately, we only get that through that narration, but don't sense it otherwise in her character. The last quarter of the movie is overstretched and distant. Still, here and there one can still find moments of delight (Smith's narration when he observes the Natives: "They are gentle, loving, faithful, lacking in all guile and trickery. The words denoting lying, deceit, greed, envy, slander, and forgiveness have never been heard").


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