Watching The New World is akin to experiencing a dream on screen or seeing a poem come to life. Dreamy, visually sophisticated and nonlinear The New World isn’t for everyone, but there are great rewards for viewers who stick with the film. Terence Malick, the film’s director who has made only four films in a thirty-two year career, uses film as a canvas to tell the story of Pocahontas (Q’Orianka Kilcher), the Native American princess who fell head over heels for Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell), was exiled by her father, and became the devoted wife of a tobacconist played by Batman Begins star Christian Bale.
The film has several scenes that are unforgettable. Malick excels when he uses pictures to tell the story and the film’s best bits are non-verbal. For example, the first meeting between the Native-Americans and the Europeans is beautiful and strange and sticks hard and fast to the first rule of filmmaking—show me don’t tell me. In one beautifully directed sequence with no dialogue we learn all we need to know about the fear and curiosity that the natives felt towards the strangely dressed visitors from Europe.
This isn’t a traditional film, and certainly if you are a fan of the animated Disney version of Pocahontas you may find The New World a little frustrating. There are no talking lions or giant apes, just lyrical storytelling and compelling characters.