By Anna

No one has made a film quite as beautiful as Malick’s Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, until Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Assassination echoes so much of Malick’s themes and rhythms: the crisp golden colors of dawn and dusk; a score as emotional and memorial; the feeling of elegy; the narration by a naïve and lonely youth, yet the message is different.

Days of Heaven is about a young man and his struggle for a better life in the years before World War I. Bill (Richard Gere) accidentally kills his boss at a steel factory in Chicago. With his younger sister, Linda (Linda Manz) and girlfriend Abby (Brooke Adams) he heads to Texas just in time for the three of them to be hired as harvesters on a young farmer’s (Sam Shepherd) land.

After the harvest, the farmer asks Abby to stay on, and Bill overhears the farmer’s doctor explain that the farmer may only have a year to live, so Bill schemes with Abby to accept the farmer’s proposal so they can all have a better life. She does, and they do live in the days of heaven for about a year, until the farmer doesn’t die, Abby falls in love with him and Bill can’t stand not seeing Abby anymore.

The story is just a few years after The Assassination of Jesse James, and feels the same way as The Assassination of Jesse James, but it has one character that Dominik didn’t have: the younger sister.

Linda perseveres where Robert Ford can’t. Ford looks back on his days of heaven, when he was riding with the notorious outlaw, and regrets killing him because it was done in naivety—murder in hopes of glory.

Linda goes on after all are gone to live a courageous life.

Linda narrates with the ambiguity of the Bible, weaving that constant theme of Biblical allusions: a lover called a sister, a plague of locusts, fields afire, murder, lies, loss and exile. But it is Linda’s lack of emotion that is gripping. As if, like the writers of the Bible, she is just looking back on a time that most impacted her, but which she can least remember.

At the film’s end, the message is clear: The extremes of life will be felt—pain and happiness—and in the end living on to tell the tale with courage will leave the most impact on the listener.

Quick reviews from films I saw this week:

Since I’ve been overlapping the end of The Sopranos with the beginning of Mad Men all the while keeping up with Veronica Mars, I’ve been a little short on film viewing. So again, only one:

The Bridge

This film is about a bridge, but not just any bridge, it’s about the suicides at the Golden Gate Bridge—the most off any bridge in the world. What the film does well is heart breaking and horrifying: it captures numerous jumpers on camera—a feat not meant for anyone, but undertaken by the filmmakers. Though the film doesn’t do anything too well, it does explicate on the mental illness behind most suicides and though it is tragic, it strongly promotes these illnesses as the reasons for suicide—an idea not as common by many people who scoff at the selfishness of suicide. But this film reveals the inescapable pain shared by family members and jumpers, and that life often feels hopeless, and may just be in some cases. It’s interesting, ominous and eerie, but tread carefully.

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