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The New World.

The New World

Theatrical poster
Directed by Terrence Malick
Produced by Sarah Green
Terrence Malick
Written by Terrence Malick
Starring Colin Farrell
Q'Orianka Kilcher
Christopher Plummer
Christian Bale
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki
Editing by Richard Chew
Hank Corwin
Saar Klein
Mark Yoshikawa
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date(s) Flag of the United States December 25, 2005 (limited)
Flag of the United States January 20, 2006 (wide)
Flag of Canada January 20, 2006
Flag of the United Kingdom January 27, 2006
Running time 150 mins (limited US release & Italian DVD-release)
135 mins (wide release and DVDs worldwide)
Language English
Budget US$ 30,000,000
Gross revenue US$ 26,184,400
Official website
Allmovie profile
IMDb profile

The New World is a 2005 drama / romance film directed by Terrence Malick. It is a historical adventure set during the founding of the Jamestown, Virginia settlement and inspired by the historical figures Captain John Smith and Pocahontas.

The New World is Malick's fourth feature film, and was written by him. The cast includes Colin Farrell, Q'Orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, August Schellenberg, Wes Studi, David Thewlis and Yorick van Wageningen. The production team includes director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki, production designer Jack Fisk, costume designer Jacqueline West and film editor Richard Chew. The film had an estimated budget of $30 million and was produced by Sarah Green.

The New World opens at the dawn of the 17th century, just prior to the European colonization of the Americas when the North American population consisted primarily of indigenous American Indian tribes, and isolated Spanish colonies. In 1607, three maritime vessels approach the unfamiliar continent, with 103 sailors on board. As members of the Virginia Company, these adventurers carry a royal charter to found a colony on the edge of the new continent. John Smith sits chained below one of the decks. He has been sentenced to death by hanging upon the ships’ docking because of his mutinous grumblings. Nevertheless, Captain Christopher Newport acknowledges Smith's ability to aid with exploration and pardons Smith as a result.

Upon landing, Smith seeks assistance from the Algonquian tribes with colonization, but runs into a hostile band of warriors and is brought to Chief Powhatan as a prisoner. Just as Smith is about to be clubbed to death by a warrior, a young beautiful Algonquian princess, who is curious about the English strangers, steps in between the executioner and Smith. The young girl, Powhatan’s youngest daughter, Pocahontas, persuades her father to spare Smith’s life. John Smith learns of the Indians' peaceful and happy lifestyle by spending time with Pocahontas, and eventually they fall in love. Their relationship makes Chief Powhatan uneasy.

Eventually Smith returns to Jamestown with a band of Pocahontas’ villagers, who intend to aid the hungry men of the Virginia Company. Soon Smith, whose usual aggressiveness has been calmed by Pocahontas and the tranquility of her world, encounters conflict with his fellow Britons. The tension between the settlers and the Native Americans builds, and a battle erupts between them. Before the battle, Pocahontas went to inform Smith; as a result, her father exiles her, and she is sent to the realms of her father's cousin in the North. While she is there, the Chieftain trades her for a copper kettle so the men of Jamestown can hold her as a captive to stop the massacres. Smith doesn't agree with taking her as the hostage, but his fellow took over the captainship from him and took her in.

Smith meets her again to reconcile, but soon decides to leave her for another conquest project commissioned by the King of England. At the requests of Smith, a fellow settler is forced to lead Pocahontas into believing that Smith is dead. Pocahontas spends the rest of her life living with the British settlers. She soon adopts the English way of life and is later baptized and renamed “Rebecca”. In her grief for Smith, the Algonquian princess has retreated into a world of solitude, and she refuses to speak to anyone. In a few months she accepts the hand of plantation owner John Rolfe in marriage, and the couple runs its homestead and eventually have a son. After a few years Pocahontas is invited to England with her family. The Lady Rebecca is an instant sensation among the British aristocracy, and she is amazed by the new sights she sees in the country. She meets Smith once more before deciding that she will remain loyal to Rolfe with whom she has fallen in love. Before she can return to Virginia she sickens and passes away, leaving Rolfe to care for their son, Thomas.

The film was shot on location at the Chickahominy River, a tributary of the James River not far from the site of the real events, and other nearby locations. Reconstructions of the Jamestown settlement and of the Powhatan village were created, based on archaeological evidence and intuition. Tools and materials used were of the geographical and technological environment of the setting. The attention paid to authenticity was of such a level that strains of Indian corn and tobacco were sought out and planted, rather than to settle for strains that are commonly found today. The England scenes were filmed at Hampton Court Palace and Hatfield House, near London, and outside the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Blair Rudes, professor of linguistics at UNC-Charlotte, re-created the extinct language of Virginian Algonquian  for the film.

The New World is the first studio feature in nine years to be at least partially shot on 65 mm film (for non-visual effect shots). The previous one was Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (1996), which was filmed entirely in 65 mm.

The film's love scenes between Colin Farrell's character and the then 14-year-old Kilcher caused some controversy, resulting in the film studio deleting several scenes with Farrell to avoid child pornography accusations. Kilcher admitted in several interviews that kissing Farrell during filming was her first kiss.

The film was originally set to be released in November 2005, but release had to be postponed as Malick was still editing the enormous amount of footage he had shot; the director is notorious for editing his films until the last minute, often trimming his films and leaving entire characters out of the final print, as is the case with The Thin Red Line.

In early December, a 150-minute version was shown to critics for awards season consideration and was released for a week from Christmas to New Year's Day in two theaters each in Los Angeles and New York to qualify for the Academy Awards.

For the film's wide release, which began on January 20, 2006, Malick re-edited the film again, cutting it to 135 minutes, but also adding footage not seen in the first release and altering some of the film's extensive voiceovers to clarify the plot. Substantial changes were made to the first half-hour of the picture, seemingly to speed the plot along. This version is the one released on DVD worldwide. The 150 minute version only saw DVD release in Italy as part of Italian distributor Eagle Pictures 2-disc set containing both the "short" and "long" version of the movie.

New Line has since announced that a 172-minute "extended version", closer in spirit to Malick's intended vision, will be issued on DVD in October 2008.

The effect of Malick's editing also resulted in a partial rejection of James Horner's score. Horner wrote and rewrote his score to scenes that were switched around, massively reedited, or thrown out of the film completely. His score then did not fit the film or did not make chronological sense in the film. For the final version, Malick combined pieces of Horner's music with the prelude to Wagner's Rheingold, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23, and other pieces to create the score to the film. Most of Horner's score as written for the film can be heard on the CD release.

Malick's film selectively blends recorded history with popular lore. It broadly follows the known life of Pocahontas, from her youth in the Powhatan village, to a period spent with the English settlers in Jamestown, her marriage to John Rolfe, her journey to London and early death; however, Malick diverges from available evidence in favor of the literary tradition that Pocahontas fell in love with John Smith.

Colin Farrell Captain John Smith
Q'Orianka Kilcher Pocahontas / Rebecca
Christopher Plummer Captain Newport
Christian Bale John Rolfe
August Schellenberg Powhatan
Wes Studi Opchanacanough
David Thewlis Wingfield
Yorick van Wageningen Captain Argall
Raoul Trujillo Tomocomo
Kalani Queypo Parahunt
Irene Bedard Pocahontas' Mother
Jonathan Pryce King James I
Noah Taylor Selway

The photography, the locations, the music and the beauty of Pocahontas make this a wonderful film, and shows the shows the world through the eyes of a person at one with nature, and shows the innocence we have lost. There is some criticism of the length and the slow pace of some of the film, but I believe this is making of the film, filming as it happens and in the very 'Spiritual' way in which such harmony with nature and though occurs. We could all learn from this film, theway to live and love.


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This article was published on Monday 22 September, 2008.

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