The New World
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Terrence Malick
with Colin Farrell, Q'Orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, August Schellenberg, Christopher Plummer, David Thewlis, Yorick van Wageningen, Wes Studi, Raoul Trujillo, Michael Greyeyes, Jonathan Pryce, Irene Bedard, John Savage, Noah Taylor, Eddie Marsan, Ben Chaplin
release US 25.Dec.05,
UK 27.Jan.06
05/US New Line 2h29

Listen with your heart: Kilcher, Farrell and the Powhatan

farrell bale plummer

25th Shadows Awards

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The New World This film plays like a sumptuous, contemplative poem about the state of the earth. The lack of sharply defined plot or characters will probably annoy mainstream filmgoers, but anyone looking for a thing of beauty will adore this.

It's based on historical records from the first British settlers in Virginia in 1607 about their standoff with Powhatan natives. John Smith (Farrell) breaks the stalemate, going to live with the tribe, getting to know the chief (Schellenberg) and falling for his daughter Pocahontas (Kilcher). But the Europeans still don't trust the "naturals"--or each other. Eventually, John Rolfe (Bale) discovers a way to profit from tobacco, and he also discovers Pocahontas.

Malick plays down the plot to concentrate on the collision between Europeans and native Americans, and the resulting creation of a new world. All character interaction plays into this theme, as does Emmanuel Lubezki's lush cinematography, which lingers on water, trees, grass and clouds as if they're telling us something. Indeed they are: the balance has been tipped.

In this filmmaking style, performances seem somewhat superficial, but the cast add depth through glances and internalised emotion. Dialog is limited to short bursts of conversation (sometimes in unsubtitled Algonquin), with frequent voice over that adds to the dreamily poetic tone. Farrell is good in a difficult role, Bale augments his character with moments of jarring insight, and Kilcher is a true discovery--engaging, earthy and powerfully emotional. Everyone else is fine, although most roles are essentially cameos.

This film is work of art, not a traditional narrative feature. Malick is exploring the clash between nature and civilisation, the way the earth destroys and regenerates, the wonders of discovery and the mysteries of love. It's an ambitious project, but he captures images and sounds (including a magnificent score) with insight and a lasting resonance. Sure, the Powhatan society couldn't have been this idyllic ("Why do you want gold? Do you eat it?"). But when Pocahontas discovers the purity and balance in carefully manicured England, you'll believe that maybe she can indeed paint with all the colours of the wind.

cert 12 themes, violence 13.Dec.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... The New World Laurie T, Minneapolis: "We kept waiting for something to happen - but enjoyed the scenery and I kinda liked thinking about how it must have seemed to land in a totally new world - with 'naturals'. The scenery is awesome and I have to say the characters were good. Not really a great action movie, but when it was over, I realized it had happened. I did like the perspective." (21.Jan.06)

Ryan, River Falls: 5/5 "This is another underrated masterpiece from director Terrence Malick. This film is not being seen enough, and should be garnering much more praise. He is a true auteur who does not seceed to Hollywoodism like so many other 'great' directors. He sticks to what he likes, and he is now four for four when it comes to his films. If you enjoy films that are visually poetic and have true emotions and that aren't bottled down with unnecessary dialogue, you should see this." (12.Feb.06)

Donna R Carter, Wisconsin: "I haven't read my history books in a long time so I couldn't verify accuracy but I imagine there was considerable fiction blended in with the facts. Beautiful cinematography. Very well cast and well acted. Colin Farrell made a great John Smith (and he definitely had his hunky moments!). Q'orianka Kilcher (only 16 years old? Wow!) is graceful and beautiful, and was a perfect Pocahontas. Christian Bale as John Rolfe, and Christopher Plummer as Captain Newport, were also perfect fits for their roles. Everything appeared very authentic. It was a rather long, slow-moving film with only a few bursts of activity. It did drag at times, but it was also wrenchingly beautiful." (26.Feb.06)

2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall