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

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

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.

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