I finally got around to seeing it, last night, and felt compelled for some reason to record my impressions. Which lie, for you should you care, right after the jump.
I’ve been teaching Days of Heaven on and off for a several years now, and I transcribed Linda Manz‘s voice-over narration because I couldn’t find it online anywhere. Besides being one of the most extraordinary aspects of the film, it ranks as some of the finest poetry of the past 35 years.
Director Terrence Malick famously added Manz’s narration well after the film was completed; supposedly he showed her the film and let her comment freely (in character) on its scenes, then cut out portions and added them to the soundtrack. The result makes the film simultaneously more and less accessible (as Roger Ebert notes: “I remember seeing the film for the first time and being blind-sided by the power of a couple of sentences she speaks near the end”); it also rewrites the film as Linda’s story, giving it a narrative and emotional center essential to the film’s coherence. Days of Heaven is unimaginable without it, and I might argue that no one—Malick very much included—has used narration so masterfully, and so poetically, since.
The full text is below the jump.
[By now it was late. The three stars were dimpling the sky. The baby raccoon was crying for its milk (I’d taken in an orphan the week before). But Jeremy and I weren’t finished yet discussing the movies we’d just watched.]
A D: You had a rather serious reaction to this one, Jeremy. Were you crying afterward?
Jeremy: Yes. Crying because I realized how much of my life I had wasted watching movies. What George Lucas did for his own franchise with the prequels, Malick did for all of cinema with The Tree of Life.
Well, Arthur Penn died. He was of course a great director. And of course everyone will be talking about how great Bonnie and Clyde (1967) is—and it is great. It’s one of the most important of American films; along with John Boorman’s Point Blank (1967), it essentially kick-started 1970s cinema, and that decade’s auteur-driven New Hollywood.
But, for my money, Penn’s best movie was Night Moves (1975).