01 February 2006

Two Worlds

Director Terrence Malick’s "The New World" follows the life of Pocahontas, or Matoaka (Q’Orianka Kilcher), from her first encounter with the Jamestown settlers, through an uneasy romance with Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell), through her marriage to John Rolfe (Christian Bale) and her death in England. Producer Mart Green’s "End of the Spear" also takes an indigenous perspective but reaches a different destination.

Malick uses story telling reminiscent of "2001: Space Odyssey" as he takes his audience on a measured, not-quite-leisurely, canoe ride down a familiar stream. The cinematography keeps the audience at a certain distance, and this distance perhaps intensifies the apparent instability in Farrell’s enigmatic, sensual, and adventurous Captain Smith. Kilcher turns in a powerful performance as Pocahontas, living and loving on the raw edge of cultural collision.

The lack of character development beyond the main characters makes the “naturals” seem like painted spirits, living in a loosely unified society with little concept of personal possession, dishonesty, or forgiveness. The inhabitants of Jamestown demonstrate equally hollow greed and lawlessness until Bale’s well-meaning Rolfe comes on the scene.

Christianity comes across as one of many environmental factors that can make individuals dependable and good or capricious and murderous, and the movie finds resolution in the rise and fall of nature.

"The End of the Spear" begins as young Dayuma flees her tribe after one of the spearing raids that characterized Waudoni culture in the Ecuadorian jungle.

On January 8, 1956, this low esteem for life and a cultural misunderstanding led to the killing of 5 missionaries, but what follows—and perhaps what did not follow—changed the Waudoni forever.

Despite the strained ending and a cast that doesn't always look Waudoni, the filmmakers take the audience right into the volatile tribal situation and show missionaries using Waudoni images and the countercultural power of forgiveness to reach across the cultural divide and build relationships with the Waudoni.

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