film reel image

film reel image

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Days of Heaven 1978 * * * 1/2 Stars

Picture of the movie poster for the film Days of HeavenDirector: Terrence Malick
Year: 1978
Rating: PG
Rating: * * * 1/2 stars
Cast: Richard Gere, Sam Shepard, Brooke Adams

Days of Heaven will forever remain one of my all time favorite films. Its director (Terrence Malick) took almost two years to get it edited. You can tell. However, please don't let that diminish your opinion of it. As a connoisseur of many types of films, I am confident when I say that Days of Heaven is one that touches greatness. It's a movie's movie and is filmmaking in its most purest, not to mention most exposed form. Almost every image on screen is indelible. Pretty much every character is realized. Every nuance of nature has its own still frame and to be honest, film as art has never been more important than it was when this masterpiece got released in the fall of 1978. It notably launched the acting careers of Richard Gere and Sam Shepard. And it pulls off something very special. Let's be honest, how many other movies do you know that have a short running time of 90 plus minutes, manage to be this massively epic in scope? Yup, I couldn't agree more.

Part vagabond adventure, part love triangle, and part early 1900's parable, Days of Heaven tells the story of Bill (Gere), a laborer out of Chicago who commits an accidental murder (kills his boss) and then flees the state with his lover Abby (Brooke Adams) and his sister (narrator Linda Manz). The three of them end up somewhere in the plains of Texas (Alberta, Canada was the actual location), find jobs on a wheat farm and become involved with the rich landowner (Sam Sheppard in first true role) who owns it. 

The storytelling in this film, although choppy, eventually finds its focus and it releases itself like a sledgehammer in the final act. When it comes to the musical score, there is a sort of haunting eerie beauty to it. However, it also resonates a feeling of radiant hope. The story or plot along with the music however, sort of takes a back seat to the visual splendor. Make no mistake about it; this is probably one of the most beautiful films you will ever see. Its cinematography won a well deserved Academy Award and with this being Malick's second major release, he pretty much announced himself to the world as a prominent visual auteur. Every scene is filled to the brim with little nooks and crannies. You get beautiful waterfalls, close-ups of locusts in their natural habitat, sped up windmills (even wind is a star in this flick), and incredibly lush sky imagery. I read somewhere that a critic said you can take any image from Days of Heaven and frame it as a painting. Darn, that's what's I wanted to say!  

Anyway, if you are a budding filmmaker, an aspiring movie critic, or just a radical screen buff, this is the ultimate foray into one's film education. Days of Heaven is a sort of cinematic translator. It will make you understand the power of cinema and its never ending possibilities. Don't hesitate to check it out. Remember "heaven" can't wait.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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