Arts & Entertainment
Review: 'The New World' evocative and credible

Ed. Note: The New World opens December 25 in Los Angeles and New York and nationwide on January 13, 2006.

"Terrence Malick's "The New World" is a visual tone poem orchestrated around the themes of innocence, discovery and loss. The inspiration is the historical legend of the "Indian princess" Pocahontas and English soldier of fortune John Smith. Malick has tried to base much of his vision on the historical record, delving into the writings of explorers and colonialists in early Virginia to create voice-over monologues by Smith and others. But this is resolutely a film of the imagination. As with all films in Malick's slim body of work, its imagery, haunting sounds and pastoral mood trump narrative.

Clearly "The New World" takes an audience into the rarefied atmosphere of an art film made with a studio budget, making its boxoffice impact hard to assess. The 150-minute film opens Christmas Day in Los Angeles and New York, then expands Jan. 13. Its slow, bucolic rhythms and unwillingness to exploit the violence or sex inherent in the story -- the film nevertheless carries a PG-13 rating for its battle scenes -- relegate the film to audiences devoted to Malick's work and film esoterica. In that world, it may become a hit.

The historical record -- especially on the Native American side, where no written language exists -- is skimpy. Nevertheless, Malick and production designer Jack Fisk bring us into a primeval Eden that feels credible. The weirdly painted natives and white-skinned, armor-clad intruders eye one another suspiciously. Their worlds, goals and beliefs could not be more antithetical."

Get the Story:
Review: The New World (The Hollywood Reporter 12/13)

Relevant Links:
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Native actors joining cast of Pocahontas romance (05/20)