Long, Looong, Looooong Time Ago

Time, I’m weary when you’re still
I thought you had skill to kill minutes.
Tell me,
How does “The New World” impede you?
Your speed is needed, see?
Heed me,
Don’t lead me,
Don’t feed me to sleep.

Mother (Earth),
I see that we must merge as one.
You are my strength and patience –
For now, I seem to have none.

My apologies. “The New World” lulled me into a poetic reverie. Have I come out of it? Am I awake? Am I dreaming with my eyes open? Will my head collapse on the keyboard if I stop thinking? Yaaaaaaawn. What is it I came here to write? Oh right, the movie. The movie that barely moved with time.

Unwind the clocks back. Lick a finger and flip the calendar back to 1607. The Atlantic drifts a crew of English men towards the Virginia coastline and the Algonquians curiously meet them. Among these American inhabitants is Indian princess Pocahontas. She’s one more dimension than the Disney version, but for compensation, she has no ballads to sing and meager lines to speak. When she meets John Smith (Colin Farell), she sees a god, whom to fall in love with. Smith falls right back, probably because she’s a babe under the age of 18. And further, he comes to love the Alconquians. To him, they seem to form a utopian community of harmony and peace. But still, Smith and Pocahontas are of different cultures. How will their love cross the boundaries and what consequences are bound to happen?

How shall I describe my experience with the movie? “The New World” is like sailing in a ship, floating on waters which reflect the gorgeous sunset sky above. But for all its scenic beauty, the water is dead calm and I’m rowing towards shore, dragging an anchor across the ocean floor. I watched the movie in four different sittings, in the course of three days. It’s slow and it’s quick to make me sleepy. It doesn’t help that the picture looks quite dreamy.

With that said, I hesitate to smear the movie with words like “boring” and “frustrating.” It’s an interesting movie. It has a realistic sense of what Pocahontas might have lived through. Like Kubrick and Lynch, director Terrence Mallick has a distinguished style of filmmaking. He likes his images to be louder than the actual sounds of the movie. And though the film is supposedly bare and simple, Mallick has a manner of over-decorating with poetic images and words.

I’m quite baffled as to why I found his style so pretentious now, because I was enthralled by his previous films, “The Thin Red Line” and “Badlands.” Perhaps in those films, the action and violence balanced out the quiet and artistic style. To me, “The New World” needed more physical action or perhaps a sense of humor. It’s a quite letdown in adventure. Oddly, you have to go beyond the movie to find it. The “Making Of” featurettes are more fascinating than the film itself. Here you’ll find people actively working on making the film as authentic as possible. We also hear actors of Native American descent, putting their heart and soul to the movie. And even amusing anecdotes from actors (Christian Bale, in particular) about the filming. After watching that, I was almost convinced I watched a great movie. Alas, I was reminded of its soporific effect, I could not bring myself to explore “The New World” again.

Grade: C+

Colin Farrell, Q’Orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, August Schellenberg, Wes Studi, David Thewlis, and Yorick van Wageningen
Screenplay by
Terrence Malick
Directed by
Terrence Malick
Rated PG-13 for some intense battle sequences