“Days of Heaven” (1978)

Directed by Terrence Malick
Paramount Pictures
US, 95 minutes
Starring Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, Linda Manz

This is an amazing, one-of-a-kind film. Days of Heaven is about three drifters (Richard Gere, Brooke Adams and Linda Minz), who pose as a family of a brother with two younger sisters. We quickly learn, through Linda’s narration that that is not entirely true. Bill and Abby are lovers, posing as related just to deflect questions. The nameless rancher (Shepard) that they wind up working for, though, falls in love with Abby and marries her. Still, on the side, she meets with Bill and when the rancher catches them finally, the film finds it’s conflict.

What everybody talks about this film is that it moves like a story without dialog and the way Malick makes this work is something that just needs to be seen. I was completely taken by surprise with how well he got his points across by just showing. We see these events happen and with only Linda’s sparse, almost senseless narration to go with, we are left with just Gere and Shepard’s incredibly expressive acting to tell us what is happening.

I would hate to try to compare Days of Heaven with anything, simply because I think it is just such a singular work that it could never be compared to anything. I don’t even think you could make a successful comparison with this to any Antonioni film. This story is too complex, concrete and (most of all) human for Antonioni and the images too organic for a filmmaker that could make even Swinging London and the Sahara Desert look mechanical.

I’m currently kicking myself for not buying this during the Criterion sale. I just caught it on TCM when they were honoring Ennio Morricone, who wrote the sparse music for the film.  Still, if The Thin Red Line is anything like this, I will definitely enjoy that film.

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2 thoughts on ““Days of Heaven” (1978)

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