Experiencing A New World; The Transformation of Pocahontas — The New World (2005)

Terrence Malick’s ‘The New World’ (2005) film cover.

“Suffice it to say, The New World is not, as you may have read, a gooey specimen of incontinent pictorialism; nor “a Tony Scott movie on quaaludes”; nor conceived to accord at any point or in any wise with the three-act, plot-pointed Syd Field-type narrative template that taints modern American cinema. Nor it is some airhead, hippy-dippy eco tone-poem; nor is it a Noble Savage movie about the poisonous effects of the White Man’s arrival and the dread Columbian Handshake (although Malick has plenty to say about the worm lodged in the American apple from day one). “— John Patterson, The Guardian.

Pocahontas is personally influenced in discovering a new world by interacting with Captain John Smith, learning the English culture and the ways they dress and communicate.

A conversation between Pocahontas and Captain John Smith, where he begins to teach her the English language.

“Mother, where do you live? In the sky? The clouds? The sea? Show me your face. Give me a sign. We rise… we rise. Afraid of myself. A god, he seems to me. What else is life but being near you? Do they suspect? Oh, to be given to you. You to me. I will be faithful to you. True. Two no more. One. One. I am… I am.” — Pocahontas.

Pocahontas truly transitions to a ‘new world’ when she is baptised and given the name of Rebecca.

Pocahontas being baptised taking on the name of Rebecca

Pocahontas is seen as a ‘god-like’ figure to both the Powhatan tribe, being stated by Captain John Smith that “She was his favourite.”, and by the English settlers, as the ‘New World’s Princess’.

The citizens of Jamestown bestowing gifts upon the newly baptised ‘Rebecca’.

Apart from the subjective effect of an English name, the physical experience, unique to the new environment is vital to its acceptance. Pocahontas physically experiences a new world when she visits England for the first time.

Pocahontas upon her arrival in England.
The celebration of the arrival of “The New World’s Princess” (Image 1)
The celebration of the arrival of “The New World’s Princess” (Image 2)
Pocahontas gazing at the stained glass windows in England.

Sunlight is blocked by small stained glass windows denying the natural elements that she has left behind. Back in the Virginia area at the time, sunlight was allowed to flow through and shine upon everything as it may. Pocahontas’s ‘new world’ doesn’t allow for this.

Pocahontas observing the restricted animals. The hawk chained by its feet (left) and the caged up marsupial (right).
A settler’s hands rising out of the dark waters to reveal a large oyster.
Pocahontas finally accepts her life in her new world.

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