The New World Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review
Birds chirp, wind blows, water moves. A young woman swims with her tribemates, her long dark hair flowing in the water. Her voice (“Dear mother, you fill the land with your beauty.”) is delicate, her body natural. She is Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher, in her first leading role).
Above the surface, three ships sail towards the coast. The natives, Algonquians, gather by the shore to watch the fleet arrive. Heading the European expedition is Captain Christopher Newport (Christopher Plummer, who that same year appeared in SYRIANA), who sees that the plot of land will fit their needs of survival. On board is also John Smith (Colin Farrell, who previously played the title role in Oliver Stone’s ALEXANDER), a captain.
When the Europeans and “the naturals” meet, it is an observation of behavior and culture. There is primitiveness and modernity, viciousness and cautiousness. The groups watch one another, careful and curious. There are discoveries and clashes. It is a new world for both.
Smith acknowledges the benefits that the land has, with new beginnings and benefits many may not have access to. His hope shifts when he encounters the teenage Pocahontas, who saves him from execution by her father, Chief Powhatan (August Schellenberg, the FREE WILLY series). As Smith becomes integrated with the tribe, he and Pocahontas fall in love. It may be expected that such a forbidden love would not last, and there comes a point where it ends, when Pocahontas is lead to believe Smith has died. As the story goes, she meets settler John Rolfe (Christian Bale, the same year he took over the role of Batman), who she marries and eventually lives in England with.
THE NEW WORLD takes its time (the Extended Cut is just short of three hours), but it does so with reason. Director Terrence Malick, delivering his fourth film and the first since 1998’s THE THIN RED LINE, is one who watches how the clouds shift and hears how twigs snap. He lets voiceovers blend with the air and characters glide along the ground. He is one of the most poetic filmmakers to grace the medium, and THE NEW WORLD is one of his most gorgeous displays.
Malick’s trademarks can be an easy target for naysayers, but THE NEW WORLD, like the majority of his works, requires them. (Later efforts like TO THE WONDER and KNIGHT OF CUPS would fall into self-mockery, perfect fodder for those who don’t care for Malick’s films.) Without its many wonderful moments of quiet and reflection, for example, the cast would not be nearly as challenged to develop the emotions and traits of their characters. (Farrell in particular thrives here, as he otherwise can’t seem to shake his Irish accent.)
THE NEW WORLD is not for the patient and it is not for those seeking entertainment or a Hollywood-ized take on an old history lesson (although, to be fair, the romantic relationship between Smith and Pocahontas, has become so much a part of the myth that it would be unusual to leave it out). It is for those who are willing to trust the director and permit him to wash them in visual and auditory pleasures that Malick, along with collaborators like cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (shooting in 65 mm), use to paint their world.
THE NEW WORLD is an ambitious work, one that is fully concentrated and shaped. It has done with the material what no work before it has and done with storytelling what so few directors even attempt.
Video: 2.35:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution at 16-bit color depth on a Northlight 2 film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative, a 35 mm interpositive, and the 65 mm original camera negative for select shots. The 35 mm negative had been cut in 2005 to create the theatrical version, so it could not be used for the entirety of the extended version. The three film elements were edited together under the supervision of film editor Mark Yoshikawa. Opticals, fades, and dissolves were re-created. Certain shots contained burned-in subtitles, which the filmmakers requested be left as is. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, chemical stains, and splices were removed using MTI Film’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt.”
All three versions of THE NEW WORLD, especially the Extended Cut, look absolutely stunning in high-definition. Details are excellent, textures are fine, colors are accurate and the overall image is perhaps the most exquisite of the year.
Audio: English and Algonquian 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English. “The 5.1 surround soundtrack for the extended cut was remastered by Joel Dougherty at Warner Bros. Studios.”
Dialogue is clean, the sound comes off organic and James Horner’s score sounds wonderful.
The Extended Cut (2:52:03)
Making THE NEW WORLD (1:21:40): This ten-part documentary, shot by Austin Lynch during the film’s production, explores various aspects of THE NEW WORLD, including the set design, locations, the cast’s training, creating authentic looks, choreographing the action-oriented scenes, the challenges weather brought and much more. Interviewees include production designer Jack Fisk, producer Sarah Green, Chickahominy tribe chief Stephen R. Adkins, makeup designer Paul Engelen
The Theatrical Cut (2:15:42)
Actors (30:03): Stars Colin Farrell and Q’orianka Kilcher discuss coming onto the film, auditioning, working with Terrence Malick, the director’s approach and style, the film’s authenticity and more.
Production (36:30): Producer Sarah Green, production designer Jack Fisk and costume designer Jacqueline West discuss their respective contributions to THE NEW WORLD and how they aided the production and Malick’s vision.
The First Cut (2:30:20)
Editors (40:42): Three of the film’s four editors—Hank Corwin, Saar Klein and Mark Yoshikawa—reflect on collaborating with Malick, working with one another and tackling the 180+ hours footage.
The Versions (17:10): Yoshikawa, who was the only editor on all of THE NEW WORLD’s versions, shares his thoughts on the process of making several cuts and the differences between each.
Also included with this Criterion Collection release is a book featuring an essay by film scholar Tom Gunning, a 2006 interview with Emmanuel Lubezki from American Cinematographer and a selection of materials that inspired the production.