Thursday, April 19, 2012

Days of Heaven: An Observation

"[T]he placid images of nature, offering quiet contrast to the evil deeds of men..." —Chris Wisniewski on Days of Heaven and The New World

During my most recent viewing of Malick's second film, I noticed that the sounds of the wheat harvest—pitchforks, tractors and other machinery—have a sound similar to that of the plague of locusts found later in the film (I'm reasonably sure bits of audio from the insect swarm were overlaid with the earlier harvest scene, or possibly vice versa). The relationship between the two scenes is also marked visually: waving flags signaling the beginning of harvest, and later the same flags used—along with coats and brooms—to shoo away the locusts and put out the flames. Man and nature are melded together as part of the same destructive—or natural—force.


"Malick's films have sometimes been frozen, by those unsympathetic to them, into pious homilies or grand statements: Man versus Nature, the redemptive path to God via love and sacrifice, the corrupting effects of Civilization encroaching upon an idyllic Wilderness... Yet nothing is so certain or schematic in his work. As always, everything is in motion, seeming opposites ceaselessly transforming each other. Days of Heaven shows us, in myriad inventive ways, how nature and culture are always intertwined, how a certain kind of technology, a certain kind of civilizing process, is part of even the humblest garden arrangement, the most elementary use of a cloth to cover the body, the fashioning of a piece of a tree to make music..." —Adrian Martin

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(For those who especially like film captures, see also: Days of Heaven Silhouettes)

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