Terrence Malick and the art of voice-over narration

Sometimes—usually on the subway—I get the voice of Sissy Spacek as Holly Sargis in Badlands stuck in my head. Spacek’s naive Texas drawl in the movie’s voice-over narration gives the film an especially chilly kind of existential dread. And then there’s the even more haunting voice of Linda Manz in Days of Heaven. Over at The Dissolve, there’s an excellent video essay about Malick’s use of voice-over throughout his career. From the intro by Scott Tobias and Kevin B. Lee (co-authors of the essay):

The fundamental value of Terrence Malick’s films is in how they remind us that everything happens in the larger context of the natural world. The voiceover in Days Of Heaven unshackles the director from the humdrum business of over-the-shoulder shots and melodramatic confrontation, and widens the frame to bigger observations about the period and the astonishing beauty captured by Nestor Almendros and Haskell Wexler’s cameras. Malick didn’t pick up the thread until he made The Thin Red Line two decades later, but it changed the way he made movies, and changed the way movies could be made.