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THE NEW WORLD

Director: TERRENCE MALICK

U.S.A.| 2005. COLOUR. ANAMORPHIC. DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO. 149 MIN.


SEVEN YEARS AFTER HIS WWII EPIC THE THIN RED LINE, CELLULOID VISIONARY TERRENCE MALICK EXPLORES THE EPOCHAL MOMENT WHEN WHITE SETTLERS LANDED IN VIRGINIA IN THE EARLY SEVENTEENTH CENTURY, PROMPTING A WELL-DOCUMENTED ROMANCE BETWEEN ENGLISH CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH AND NATIVE AMERICAN PRINCESS POCAHONTAS.
Favouring the exquisitely beautiful, unapologetically textural approach familiar from his slim-but-significant filmography, Malick lays out the inevitability of conflict after the newcomers’ initial violation of this paradisiacal environment. Thanks to Emmanuel Lubezki’s truly luminous cinematography, it’s actually possible to sense the awe-inspiring loveliness of a country as yet unspoiled by human hand, before the two sides’ initially benign contact becomes a bloody territorial battle for survival. How then does a love story breach cultural barriers and find its footing within the context of imperial conquest? Since Malick puts his faith in voiceover and the performers’ physical presence over reams of conventional dialogue, the onus is on Colin Farrell and 15-year-old Q’Orianka Kilcher to answer that question. By and large, there’s a persuasive intimacy between them, even if the portrayal is kept understandably chaste, and Farrell’s inner restlessness provides a potent foil to the earnest gallantry of her subsequent English suitor (Christian Bale).
Although sustaining dramatic tension isn’t always Malick’s priority over the generous time-span, shifting the perspective between these three main characters allows the notion of a relationship finding its own space to register with cumulatively moving results. While the film’s pictorial beauty is staggeringly seductive, it’s this keening emotional empathy which finally strikes the heart.

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