Days of Heaven (1978)
Only the second full length feature directed by Terrence Malick. Days of Heaven takes place near the beginning of the century and is an insightful look into the repercussions of youth, love, and angst. Displaying Terrence Malick at the start of his career, Days of Heaven showcases his affection for setting and how the importance it carries is just as relevant to the story as the script or acting. Days of Heaven is a poetic follow up for Malick unlike his ambitious, unsettling debut, Badlands. Richard Gere is decidedly ruthless and unforgiving much like a reflection to the abundant, dry terrain the film is based upon. With the pitch and incoherence of the voice over accompanying the immense field like desert, Malick is able to effectively initiate a sense of insignificance in the belittling world. Days of Heaven may start off a bit sluggish but it ends exhilaratingly strong.
Bill (Gere) and Abby (Brooke Adams), a young couple who pretend to be siblings to shake any unwanted attention, must flee Chicago to find work and escape poverty. After stealing a ride on a train headed south with a child named Linda, the couple ends up in Texas and find work on a farm during the harvest. When the harvest ends, the owner of the fields invites the three to live with him as he has fallen in love with Abby. When Bill and Abby overhear that the owner is seriously ill and doesn’t have long to live, they decide that Abby will marry him to gain some financial benefit. When the expected passing doesn’t come, jealousy and anger begin to set in.
As with every Malick film, you will want to pay close attention to the location. Malick is persistent in his attempts at matching the depth of his cinematic prose with settings that are just as rewarding. His use of shadow, atmosphere, and vast spaces are incomparable and coexist harmoniously with this classic love story. The dissonance in the music accompanying the ominous thesis woven in Days of Heaven evokes a certain disgust, like the prick of a needle. It’s the fact that although the marriage is done with the best intentions, you cannot shake the feeling of prostitution and deceit. Days of Heaven is deliberately paced and complete storytelling at his finest.
Days of Heaven: 7.5 out of 10.