Shawn Loht on the existentials in Days of Heaven
The three existentials that express Dasein's way of being-in the world are also crucially operative in the disclosures afforded by this film. With the existential of understanding, we can highlight a number of interrelated aspects. First, because understanding (and its activation in what Heidegger calls "interpretation") is always predicated on a fore-having, or a pre-understanding, it is worth recalling that viewing of this film--indeed any film--is likewise always consequent upon prior film-viewing and the sorts of conventions other films have already conveyed to one. This will include items such as genre, editing, focus, narration, cross-cutting, and similar techniques of the medium. A second layer is the ability of understanding for projecting forward and backward. The existential is not simply about processing information, or applying intuition to concepts, say, in static fashion. Understanding involves an ecstatic dimension of being beyond oneself, stretching past what is simply in front of one, as a projection from one's current state of being. Hence the very narrative, temporal aspect experience in Days of Heaven or any other film is underwritten by this projective ek-stasis of Dasein. That all being said, let us examine a third layer of understanding here, which surely is the richest to take up. The existential features of understanding laid out here foster a disclosure--an interpretation--that comprises film images juxtaposed with one another, in temporal sequence. Dasein projects meaning--which is to say, it discloses intelligibility--from this juxtaposition of images. Hence, existentially speaking. Dasein's interpretive understanding, the meaning it finds in this film, is derivative from Dasein's underlying aspect of being-there in the film world.
From Phenomenology of Film