Saturday, May 27, 2006


The New World movieColin Farrell Directed by Terrence Malick
Starring Colin Farrell
Reviewed by Byron Merritt



The New World has many detractors. Most comment on the slow pace of the film, and this is undeniably so. “It’s like watching grass grow” is the commonly heard cliché. I’m not here to defend the speed at which this story unfolds; it is slow. But it’s also beautifully put together.

Try this: You’re in a raft on a placidly flowing river. Trees wash by, animals nibble grasses on the shores, the sky illuminates a beautiful blue above and below while the sun warms your legs. The rapids are few and easily navigated, allowing you time to view everything around you. Sound boring? Or comfortable?

If this sounds like death, stay away from The New World. If it sounds pleasant and enjoyable, give the film a try.

What I enjoyed was the how the story dribbled into the viewer’s lap. It roiled around you like a cool mountain stream and allowed time for everything to come into focus. This isn’t Disney’s Pocahontas; this is how the Jamestown Settlement came to be, in all its boringness and beauty.

Colin Farrell stars as Captain John Smith, one of the founders of the original colonies. He and his shipmates arrive in the Americas and are soon building a fort while the leader of the group, Captain Christopher Newport (Christopher Plummer), heads back to Europe to resupply and bring more colonists.

Meanwhile, Jamestown is nearly overrun by disease, power struggles, and the native Indians. Amidst all this, Captain Smith meets up with Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher), the pretty and inquisitive daughter of a local chieftain. It is her generosity that allows these first colonists to survive, and it is mainly because of her love for Smith.

After Captain Smith leaves the colony in search of better lands up north, it is wrongly reported to Pocahontas that her love perished in a shipping accident. Thus she despairs and eventually falls for John Rolfe (Christian Bale), a tobacco farmer.

Pocahontas is later requested by the King and Queen of England to come to Court and meet them …and she does. Thus, we have two new worlds being discovered: one for the Europeans (America), and one for the Native Americans (England and Europe).

Pocahontas later learns that Captain Smith is still alive. It is a bitter realization and she has to decide whom to stay with, Smith or Rolfe.

It is the beautiful cinematography of The New World that really pulls the viewer in. Some have complained that it should have won Best Cinematography at the Oscars and not
Memoirs of a Geisha. I disagree. The New World is extremely beautiful to watch, no doubt, but I feel Memoirs of a Geisha was a bit better on the eyes.

The wondrous musical score was another boon for the film. Surrounding the viewer/listener in an emulsion of color and sound, the music made for some powerful moments. Terrence Malick, Director, knows how to engage an audience. But it’s not going to capture all those who watch it.

In a society where action sells better than art, this film will be lost to many. Don’t get me wrong, I love action films just as much as anyone. But it’s not a necessary ingredient for a movie such as this. The authenticity (as seen on the DVD’s extra features) will astound many; I know it blew me away. The re-creation of the settlement, the Native American huts, the battle gear, etc., are all pulled from archaeological records and sources. Impressive.

It’s also noteworthy to mention how little dialogue there is in the film. Terrence Malick prefers to let the scenes speak for themselves rather than have actors and actresses voices spoil the moment.

I guess what it boils down to is this: If you don’t like art films that focus on nuance rather than specifics, stay away from The New World. But if you don’t mind letting your mind meander through a burbling set of scenes, you’ll probably delight in this film.

Oscar nominated: Achievement in Cinematography

Click here for The New World movie trailer!


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