Photo ©2005 Merie Wallace/New Line Productions
PG-13 for some intense battle sequences
January 20, 2006
Romance, Drama, History
Colin Farrell, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer, Wes Studi, August Schellenberg, Raoul Trujillo, Q'Orianka Kilcher
New Line Cinema
Terrence Malick first wrote the script for The New World in the 1970s.
Filmmakers shot approximately one million feet of film during the making of the movie. That’s more than four times the average.
Christian Bale, who plays John Rolfe in The New World, was the voice of Thomas in Disney’s 1995 animated version of Pocahontas.
In providing movie reviews on our site, CBN.com is not endorsing or recommending films we review. Our goal is to provide Christians with information about the latest movies, both the good and the bad, so that our readers may make an informed decision as to whether or not films are appropriate for them and their families.
The New World
By Belinda Elliott
Director Terrence Malick’s film The New World is a beautiful retelling of America’s beginnings centered on the founding of the Jamestown settlement and the legend of Pocahontas and John Smith.
The film opens with the arrival of three English ships sent by the London-based Virginia Company in 1607 across the Atlantic Ocean in search of gold and treasures. As the ships arrive near their village, members of the native Algonquian tribe greet the men with a curious apprehension.
Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell), a prisoner on one of the ships who is scheduled to be hanged as soon as the ship reaches land, is released and appointed by Captain Newport (Christopher Plummer ) to lead a group of men to gather food. On their journey the men are ambushed and killed, except for Smith who is captured by the Algonquian tribe and taken to their village. There he meets Pocahontas (Q’Orianka Kilcher), the beautiful daughter of the Algonquian chief Powhatan, who teaches him about the culture and customs of her people.
The free-spirited young Indian princess and handsome Englishman develop a passionate relationship that will later be severely tested. When Powhatan's tribe plans to attack the settlement it is Pocahontas that warns the English, leading to her banishment from her tribe and her family forever. As insurance against further attacks from her father’s tribe, Pocahontas is forced to live with the English where she converts to Christianity and takes on an English name -- one of many difficult changes that she will soon face.
Unfortunately, this film will not appeal to everyone. Director Terrence Malick’s style is a unique one that favors providing viewers with an experience rather than focusing exclusively on a dramatic plot. Thus, his emphasis is on the characters, their feelings, and their surroundings. Rather than racing to a climatic finish, the film immerses viewers in this 17th century world and then slowly reveals the struggles and emotions faced by the people living there.
Many moviegoers may write this film off as boring and pointless because of its slow pace. That would be a mistake. While it is not the typical high-action "popcorn movie" we usually see (and many of us greatly enjoy) from Hollywood, the film has numerous good qualities to offer.
First, there is the amazing cinematography. Malick uses only natural lighting, and his eye for detail brings a tranquil beauty to the film. From the rough and dirty Jamestown settlement to the beautiful pristine woods surrounding the Chickahominy River, the sights and sounds transport viewers into this new world to live among the characters and experience the surroundings as they do.
Secondly, the film offers stunning performances, especially from newcomer Q’Orianka Kilcher. Age 14 when the movie was filmed, Kilcher portrays Pocahontas with a realness and maturity far beyond her years. The talented young actress said the audition process for the role was a grueling one. Filmmakers took her through 15 to 20 auditions before awarding her the part.
Producer Sarah Green commented that this was necessary to be sure she truly understood the character and could portray her accurately. They made the right choice. Kilcher’s performance is as captivating as it is genuine.
The film offers another quality not often seen in Hollywood these days – restraint. While the movie’s scenes are packed with emotion and conflict, there is no gratuitous violence, sex, or nudity. The battle scenes are quite realistic with a huge emotional impact, but without a lot of blood. Likewise, love scenes between Pocahontas and John Smith are filled with sentiment and tenderness, but they are not the sensual “steamy” encounters that one finds in most movies these days.
Even Pocahontas’ native attire, while admittedly meager by today’s standards, was designed with an air of restraint. Native American women in her tribe were customarily topless, the producer said, but that was deemed inappropriate for the film.
Green explained that the filmmakers made these choices because they wanted everyone to be able to watch the film, including children. While many children may find the movie a little dull for their tastes, parents need not worry about the film exposing them to objectionable material.
At its heart The New World is an engaging love story. The legend of Pocahontas and John Smith has been passed down through history and, as all good stories do, it has evolved along the way. There are many details of the story about which scholars do not agree, leading some people to question the historical accuracy of the film.
However, Malick’s approach is not to choose sides. For this reason, and for the sake of keeping the movie at a reasonable length, Malick leaves out considerable amounts of backstory and allows readers to fill in the gaps for themselves. What emerges is an epic tale of love, survival, and difficult choices that all people can appreciate.
Even if “artsy” films are not your typical forte, take a chance and visit The New World. You may discover that you enjoy the trip.
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