In the first scene, we see the tall ships arriving at the area that would eventually become the Jamestown settlement. Wagner's low horns speak to the grandeur of the ships from the perspective of the natives while the rolling crescendos evoke the sea.
The cyclic, low to high patterns, repeated higher in the strings set the stage for the the rest of the film. Notice how the melody moves from low notes to high notes, back down and then up again but rising higher with each cycle. Is it a rising tide? An approaching storm?
Now watch in a very different scene towards the end of the film that uses the same music. At this point, we see Pocahontas in England with her young son. Again the swelling in the music foreshadows a major event. Notice how the rising and falling in the string and brass parts echo the many cycles in the picture. Is it any coincidence that she turns a cartwheel?
While the cyclic parallels may be obvious to some, there is no denying the powerful impact this music has with these scenes in the film.
Search YouTube for "the new world - Vorspiel" to see the scenes described above. Thanks to New Line Cinema for permitting the clips from The New World for commentary and educational purposes. Congratulations to Terrence Malick on winning top prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his latest film, The Tree of Life.
(c) 2009 Carlos Garza