Still, there's more of a plot-like structure here than there is in his later work, and The New World may mark his finest balance between plot and abstraction. Perhaps it is because the story he tells here is so familiar. The story of Pocahontas has been a part of American lore for centuries - the Native American princess who fell in love with John Smith, saved him from being executed by her father, and went on to marry John Rolfe before dying in England, a world away from her pristine homeland of what is now Virginia.
As is typical of Malick, the central love stories, between Pocahontas and Smith, then Pocahontas and Rolfe, are much more than they appear to be on the surface. Malick has constructed them as metaphors for the discovery of America - from its initial, untouched promise, to "destruction of Eden" that marks the end of the Natives' idyllic paradise, to the eventual acceptance of a new way of life, one that is not necessarily bad, but not as good as what came before.
GRADE - ★★★★ (out of four)
Now available on Blu-Ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
Special features include:
- New 4K digital restoration of the 172-minute extended cut of the film, supervised by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and director Terrence Malick and featuring material not released in theaters, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-rays
- High-definition digital transfers of the 135-minute theatrical cut and the 150-minute first cut of the film, supervised by Lubezki, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks on the Blu-rays
- New interviews with actors Colin Farrell and Q’orianka Kilcher
- New program about the making of the film, featuring interviews with producer Sarah Green, production designer Jack Fisk, and costume designer Jacqueline West
- Making “The New World,” a documentary shot during the production of the film in 2004, directed and edited by Austin Jack Lynch
- New program about the process of cutting The New World and its various versions, featuring interviews with editors Hank Corwin, Saar Klein, and Mark Yoshikawa
- PLUS: A book featuring an essay by film scholar Tom Gunning, a 2006 interview with Lubezki from American Cinematographer, and a selection of materials that inspired the production