Brad Stevens wrote the following at a_film_by, which helps recontextualize Terrence Malick's 'The Thin Red Line' -- a film which I've seen three times, but found achingly mediocre on the last viewing. (See the archives.) Nevertheless, his comments are intriguing.
For the record, I've seen the 2h15m cut of 'The New World' once, and I liked it very much. I'm waiting for Malick's full-on 3-hour version to surface on DVD before I watch it again.
"I've had reservations about Malick in the past, but THE NEW WORLD
seems to me to be a masterpiece. Not simply Malick's finest
achievement, but the film that finally makes some kind of overall
sense out of his previous work. Last time I saw Jonathan Rosenbaum in
London, he had seen THE NEW WORLD, but I hadn't, and he told me that
he didn't think much of it. If I remember correctly, his comment
was, 'innocence can only get you so far where American history is
concerned'. But I don't think that the film supports Captain John
Smith's 'innocent' view of Pochahontas - on the contrary, he is shown
to be projecting his own narcissistic ideals onto her, in much the
same way that Holly projects her romantic ideals onto Kit in
BADLANDS. Kent Jones, in a recent FILM COMMENT piece, pointed out
that the various performers in THE THIN RED LINE often seemed to be
acting as if they were in different films. The comment was intended
negatively, but it seems to me that this is very much the point about
Malick's work - that he is constantly presenting us with characters
who see themselves as the stars of their own films, the key figures
in their own private narratives, and regard everyone they encounter
as merely representations of their own desires. THE NEW WORLD makes
it absolutely clear that Pochahontas cannot be reduced to a symbol,
that she is ultimately as unknowable as the maze which we see her
circling during the final scene."