The New World is a telling of the Pocahontas story set in 1607 Jamestown. Much is that story is made up of legends about which there is much debate today. The movie that Terrance Malick made is really about the meeting of two very different cultures. The Pocahontas story just plays in the background as Malick examines the differences between the two different worlds.
The movie contrasted the Jamestown settlement and the crowded London streets with the beauty of the Powhatan village. The native Americans planted fields, fished with nets, smoked tobacco, played games, practiced archery. The depictions of the villages and the native housing were beautiful. The Jamestown residents hunted for gold and despoiled the landscape. A view into the stockade of the Jamestown settlement is as powerful a statement as has ever been made about the "civilization" of the new world on film.
The movie had a very realistic feel to it.
Malick has tried to base much of his vision on the historical record, delving into the writings of explorers and colonialists in early Virginia to create voice-over monologues by Smith and others.
The reconstructions of the Jamestown settlement and of the Powhatan village were based on archaeological evidence. A professor re-created the extinct language of Virginian Algonquian for the film.
The depiction of the natives Americans was in keeping with Malick's description of them as "naturals". They seemed to be at one with the land.
Powhatan, the tribal leader was played by August Schellenberg and Opechancanough, a tribal adviser, was played by Wes Studi. They both looked great but unfortunately we really don't get to learn enough about them. Opechancanough is on the ship that brings Pocahontas to England and he tells her that her father, Powhatan, has sent him to count the English.
The movie has been described as languid with beautiful scenes and I think that is fair. For people who are interested in American Indian films this is a must. The recreation of the village scenes alone make it worth while viewing.