‘When I spoke to Q’Orianka Kilcher, one of the things I wanted to know from the young actress was what it was like to know that she was in a film that would be studied for decades to come. Terrence Malick, an auteur in every sense, has both written and directed just five films in his since 1969. As such each new work, staggeringly original in its scope and in its approach, is a cause for eager anticipation. Each finds new truths and new meanings in events that had seemed familiar, combat during World War II in his last effort,THE THIN RED LINE, and now the settling of America by the Europeans in THE NEW WORLD.
We went on to discuss the casting process, the liberties taken with the otherwise absolute authenticity of Malik’s depiction of the Native Americans, and what he was like as a director. Charming, enthused, and wonderfully self-assured, Kilcher fairly bubbled with delight in talking about the director and his film.
THE NEW WORLD takes the seemingly familiar story is that of the settling of what would become Virginia in 1607 by the English and tells it from three distinct perspectives,: John Smith (Colin Farrell), the adventurer who arrived in America in chains and barely misses being hanged; Pocahontas (Q’Orianka Kilcher), the Native American princess whose free-spirit has devastating repercussions for her people, and John Rolfe (Christian Bale), the sensitive settler who rescues Pocahontas’ heart. From schoolbooks to Peggy Lee, the tale of the Native American princess throwing herself on Smith to save him from being executed by her father, King Powhatan has been retold so many times that it has all but lost its impact. Malick finds it again, and uses it to create an extended mediation on what is lost in every sense when cultures clash.
THE NEW WORLD, like other Malick films, creates its own filmic idiom. It is the cinematic equivalent of a tone poem with an emotional impact that works on more than the conscious level. This is history that is not just seen, but felt, and absorbed into one’s very soul.