Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Days of Heaven

Days of Heaven has been one of my favorite movies since I first saw it at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge. When it played a few months ago at the Film Forum in New York, Jenn and I went to see it and noticed Willem Dafoe in the audience. I was amazed at how well I remembered practically every scene, including seemingly random images like the silvery, shivery catspaw that brushes for a second across the surface of a pond. The eerie voiceover by Linda Manz — 16 years old but playing a somewhat younger girl — is the heart of the movie, as Robert Ebert pointed out in a sensitive essay. I was pleased that he was so struck by one of the same passages that struck me, when Linda (the character shares the actress’s name) is escaping with her grown brother and his lover on a raft. Linda’s curiosity has survived the traumas she’s seen, but any empathy for strangers is gone, or at least dimmed.
The sun looks ghostly when there's a mist on the river and everything's quiet. I never knowed it before. And you could see people on the shore but it was far off and you couldn't see what they were doing. They were probably calling for help or something or they were trying to bury somebody or something.
In the last scene, Linda has escaped in the early morning from a heartless foster home and has met a new friend by the railroad tracks. Linda has nothing and no one, but she is concerned about her friend.
This girl she didn’t know where she was goin' or what she was gonna do. She didn't have no money or nothin'. Maybe she'd meet up with a character. I was hoping things would work out for her. She was a good friend of mine.
I got a little teary when I saw that scene, just as I did the first time more than twenty years ago.

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