In Terrence Malick's latest film, The New World, there is a scene in which Pocahontas -- or at this point we should say, simply, she -- sheds the garb of her people, and first tries on "civilized" clothes. Malick captures the awkwardness, the displacement, with immaculate grace. The shoes pinch. The heels wobble.
She isn't Pocahontas anymore. She's not yet Rebecca.
I understand. She's on a plane.
30,000 feet up, she dutifully thumbs through a United Airlines magazine. The pages are blank. She puts it down. She stares out the window at a motionless wing. A single red light blinks. For a moment everything has stopped: the plane, time itself -- everything but that light.
Even the light has little to say into the darkening stratosphere. "I am blinking. I am a light."
A row up, the flight attendant glances the aisle seat with his cart. Pocahontas asks for a tomato juice, then stares out again. For a moment, visions of the unseen New World fill the emptiness, projected in the plane window, dimly. Looking down again, she stares into her plastic cup. She prays to the ice, "Don't melt."