The Whispering Wind: Matt Zoller Seitz on "The New World

By robbiefreeling | REVERSEBLOG: the reverse shot blog July 20, 2010 at 2:06AM

As Terrence Malick’s The New World eases into its climactic movement, its heroine Pocahontas enters the latest (but not last) phase of her journey. Once a Powhatan princess, she became the lover of convict-turned-explorer John Smith; then a diplomat taking pity on Smith’s stubborn, hapless countrymen; then a pariah cast out by her father as a betrayer; then a slowly assimilating Englishwoman and grieving (presumed) widow, deceived into thinking Smith dead; then a ward—and later, lover—of a kind Englishman, John Rolfe; the toast of Rolfe’s mother country; then a contented wife living in a high-ceilinged manor in which she welcomes Smith as her guest.
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As Terrence Malick’s The New World eases into its climactic movement, its heroine Pocahontas enters the latest (but not last) phase of her journey. Once a Powhatan princess, she became the lover of convict-turned-explorer John Smith; then a diplomat taking pity on Smith’s stubborn, hapless countrymen; then a pariah cast out by her father as a betrayer; then a slowly assimilating Englishwoman and grieving (presumed) widow, deceived into thinking Smith dead; then a ward—and later, lover—of a kind Englishman, John Rolfe; the toast of Rolfe’s mother country; then a contented wife living in a high-ceilinged manor in which she welcomes Smith as her guest.

Now she is about to become, in Rolfe’s words, “but a fond memory” to a son that barely knew her.

Pocahontas’s toddler-aged son runs along a hedgerow amid a flock of sheep. The camera follows like a tagalong ghost. The wind comes up.

The wind signals that the movie is over—that the end is near.

But what follows is a beginning.

Read Matt Zoller Seitz's contribution to the Reverse Shot Sounds Off symposium.