Reviews of Days of Heaven
Displaying all 10 reviews
Days of Heaven is truly a unique and a beautiful movie, in a class by itself. I had that opinion the first time I saw it on DVD and still feel the same way after rewatching it after The Tree of Life. It’s been at the best films list of the 1970’s, if not, the most beautiful, poetic, grandeur piece of filmmaking.
It’s very dream-like, a film that I can always think of even when it is finish. The cinematography alone makes this movie worth watching repeatedly to it’s extravagant scenery of Texas ranch. Now that we all have access to a widescreen DVD version of this, the scenes are even more breathtaking and much more spiritual like you are actually on in it. The same concepts can be used when discussing the soundtrack, a haunting music score that gets better and better each time one views this film. In fact, lately it’s the music more than anything else I miss when I go periods without viewing this film and it is so memorable that makes the film more unforgettable and beloved. The story is simple and is very well explained by other characters here. I also find the whole narration of the movie to be extremey unique and touching, an unusual insight into the characters of the film and the thoughts of the little girl, who does the narrating. The characters that continually fascinate me are Brooke Adams, as the lead female, and Robert J. Wilke, as the farm foreman. I guess it’s their faces that intrigue me. Adams’ down-turned mouth and sad look and Wilke’s wrinklies catch my attention every time. And also Richard Gere, at it’s best too. The story is interesting, generally low-key but with a few quick violent scenes that are quite memorable. More than that, one gets an incredible feel for the land and for the migrant workers of that time period. Another nice aspect of this film is the very small amount of profanity.
But as many plauses as the story boasts, that haunting music and those incredible visuals are what drive me back for more. And that is why, Days of Heaven, is truly a great movie. And again, Malick doesn’t make cheap silly predictable cliched love story here, instead he focus more about the true beauty of nature with grace and redefine it with it’s characters.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
This has, many, many times been called the most beautiful color film ever made. It’s hard to disagree. A poetic biblical parable played out in the Texas Panhandle at the turn of the century, it gives total preference to the emotion of imagery over the emotion of the actors. It’s an exercise in feeling and seeing that’s so successful it elevated Terrence Malick into the ranks of visual storytellers like Tarkovski and Kurosawa. Shot on a punishing schedule that included almost nothing but sunset and sunrise set-ups, the film radiates with an intimate light and a precise, unflagging eye to detail, all the more amazing since Cinematographer Néstor Almendros – who had worked with Truffaut – was going blind (Haskell Wexler shot half the film, but did not share in the Oscar for Best Cinematography). Here is Malick’s reoccurring themes in all their glory, most notably the beauty and struggle of nature (very few scenes are shot indoors) as wheat and weather and animals and the human heart swirl into a whipping, but somehow always languid, storm. And here too is where Malick’s famed refusal to compromise first reared bold. Shortly after shooting began Malick threw away his own script forcing the whole production – actors, cameramen and art departments – to improvise along with him; he refused to follow standard lighting schemes or structure his workdays according to traditional Hollywood protocol, causing crew to quit the production and accuse the filmmaker of not knowing how to make a movie; the budget flared out of control; he shot for a year, bringing actors back again and again for pick-ups, then edited for two more after that. The film reportedly exhausted Malick and shortly after finishing it he made his mythical disappearance from the world stage, fleeing to France. As we all know, Malick didn’t make another movie for two decades, but had he left it all here on the table in this, his second feature film, way back in 1978, he would still be known as one of the most important American Directors. On another note, Linda Manz, with her extraordinary elvish face and easy adult nature, is amazing in this movie. She seems entirely legitimate. It’s sad we have so few films with her in them.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Overwhelmed. The tagline got it right—every sense, by the end of Days of Heaven, will be overwhelmed. Terrence Malick’s second feature film is as breathtaking as you’ve heard, mesmerizing you with its sumptuous beauty until the hellish climax burns through your soul with its flames of vengeance. I seriously don’t know which is more gorgeous, the sprawling wheat fields straight from an Andrew Wyeth painting or the stark contrast of fire on the night sky, shrouded in smoke. One could call it a masterpiece without opposition due to the visuals alone, captivating its viewers whether the sound is on or not—and in many instances speech is drowned out by noise of industry or the inclusion of Camille Saint-Saëns’s The Carnival of Animals. The fact Malick’s story also grabs hold in its complex tale of love, money, and betrayal only bolsters the opinion. I almost don’t blame him for taking twenty years off until directing again because you can’t follow up something like this with just anything.
The story itself is rendered through actions as much as it is words. A lot of what occurs does so from the silent stares of emotional turmoil, speech made inconsequential when the pulsating whir of industrial machinery expresses the feelings being portrayed, enhancing it all with a deafening volume overtaking your ears. And it is jarring the first time you experience such a directorial choice, making you somewhat disoriented while wondering what exactly happened. We watch Richard Gere’s Bill sternly walking the circled path of mill workers, shoveling his coal up and looking away as he tosses it into the fire. Noise is everywhere and we see mouths moving, but no sense of the conversation besides Gere and his boss’s not-so-genial expressions, soon culminating in a sharply cut assault. Reasons are meaningless as the result of the action says it all. One man is left dead while the other runs, collecting his sister Linda (Linda Manz) and lover Abby (Brooke Adams) to flee into the country, leaving Chicago behind. It is far from the remorseless killings of Malick’s first antihero, Martin Sheen’s Kit, but that doesn’t prevent Bill from still forgetting the surge of malice in order to move forward.
Riding on the roof of trains, this trio is seen laughing, happy to go on a journey to the next chapter of their lives, wherever it may be. Robert J. Wilke’s foreman rides in to scoop up all the cheap labor he can find at the station, enlisting able citizens to come work the harvest at his boss’s farm. The work is tough and the company consists of uneducated laborers, fuses as short as Bill’s, catching on to his relationship with Abby despite them saying they are brother and sister in order to divert prying eyes. They are constantly in everyone’s sights, however, her dark black hair catching the interest of Sam Shepard’s farmer, enough to inquire around to her story before approaching timidly with the proposition to stay on after the season and be with him. The question would have been disregarded instantly, especially with Bill’s penchant for angry flashes of aggression, but he had just recently overheard the doctor tell Shephard he had about a year left to live. With a disease-ravaged suitor, fresh off his biggest yield to date on the land, Bill keeps his jealousy in check and pushes Abby to accept the offer in order to reap the benefits once he passes. What neither could ever have expected was that she would fall in love.
Malick takes us on this journey through tiny vignettes of expository imagery or quick glimpses into conversations half heard. It is all meticulously culled together into a symphony of visuals cutting from wide-lens expanses of open country against a stormy sky, to a close-up of a wild turkey or rabbit nestled between the wheat, to the convulsions of a sick man in bed, straight on forward to this complex family living under one roof—a brother and sister, separated lovers, and husband and wife. It is all so idyllic in the good fortune these poor Chicagoans have come upon, living the rich life and enjoying every minute of it. These are the Days of Heaven indeed, but as Linda shares through her voiceover narrations, as seen through the eyes of a child wise beyond her years, Heaven can only exist with a Hell opposite. The fire will arrive to consume everything in its wake, the good finding solace in an afterlife of bliss and the bad left to burn, their screams silent upon the deaf ears of God. Wilke’s foreman sees through these strangers at the endgame they seek, but Shephard is completely smitten, a dangerous fact for the evitable discovery of betrayal, his love making it unforgivable.
I still have frames of Gere’s and Shephard’s wrought faces of anguish and pain seeing the woman they love show the other affection. The true tragedy of this story is that she does in fact love them both, incapable of hurting either, but helpless in doing anything to stop it. All three of them go around in circles of happiness and jealousy, the fuel for its blow-up continuously filled higher and higher without release. At one point it seems as though perhaps love and decency would win out, the novice con artists seeing the error of their ways. But the overly affectionate farewell—the kind of physical closeness inappropriate for siblings to partake in—is seen by Shepherd’s already increasingly suspicious husband, leading to the wrath of destruction that follows. God is looking for a purge of the evil inhabiting this majestic farm resting below the uniquely stunning house at its center. The locusts move in and take a hold of the new year’s crop, the pent up rage finally having an outlet for complete annihilation. A victim becomes a hot-blooded creature capable of anything while his oppressor—coping with the fact he has been defeated—the object of his vitriol. The wheels have finally come off and the end result isn’t pretty for any of the players in this ruthless game of love.
The simple economy of plot has left an indelible mark on me. The editing is sheer genius, never allowing the audience to become comfortable until winter comes and conflict has been averted. Rather than go back to the flashes of inter-cut information after, however, the fateful combination of Mother Nature’s and Shephard’s farmer’s retribution is shown in extreme detail as an inferno literally and figuratively engulfs every last living soul. The tone set by cinematography great Néstor Almendros and continued by Haskell Wexler once he needed to move onto his next film—Malick’s extreme tardiness in finishing his work peeking through—is haunting. An image of Richard Gere, his back towards the camera looking forward into a machine blowing wheat in his direction cannot be shaken, the trail of the straw coming at the camera and veering left. There are the long shots of the farm, house in the distance and men at the foreground, with a swarm of locusts converging and flying through the sky, darkening everything in frame; the immense wall of flames shooting higher and higher into the sky; and brief moments onscreen like Shepherd shaking from anger, angled from below, or Gere splashing into the water, the camera beneath to see impact. Nothing about this film is likely to leave me any time soon.
Days of Heaven 10/10
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Fantasmagórica desde sua notável abertura ao som de Carnival of the Animals (de Camille Saint-Saens), esta obra inclassificável enfeitiça quem nela embarca, servindo-se de recursos ao alcance somente de um autor de arrojado faro artístico, exprimindo uma pureza pictorial sem paralelos na corrente da cinematografia estadunidense em voga (exceto, talvez, por O Novo Mundo). Malick, ao invés de priorizar o encadeamento lógico para conectar sequências, arquitetou uma experiência contemplativa, tanto por suas imagens atmosféricas e elegíacas quanto em função da narrativa elíptica, ditada por um ritmo ponderado.
- Currently 3.0/5 Stars.
Too many gushing accolades can destroy a film by setting unrealistic expectations. As much as I share the passion, Criterion is sometimes guilty of this offense. Days of Heaven is one of its deified classics that could disappoint if seen without some level-setting. For one thing, the film was not universally liked upon its initial release. It did not earn any Oscar nominations for direction, acting or screenplay. Half the cinematography was done by Haskell Wexler although all cinematography awards went to Nestor Almendros, who left production midway due to scheduling overruns and who was also going blind. The project had been so taxing that Terrence Malick did not make another film for 20 years.
I offer these facts as small caveats to temper some of the glowing, near-orgasmic reviews of this film. It is not perfect, by far. There is little in the way of character development, plot or dialogue. Likewise, the acting is minimal and straightforward since the characters themselves don’t change. Yet these are not necessarily faults. There is an ethereal, fairy tale quality to the story, both in appearance and in composition. Malick favored natural lighting, in keeping with the era depicted and to match the bare austerity of American realist paintings — some of the shots of wildlife are beautiful enough to be framed. The characters and their interactions are similarly spare. Innocence, ambition, jealousy, guilt are the elementary themes set against the Texas panhandle at the turn of the 20th century. Survival is simple although the effort is hard. One bad decision complicates it, costing lives, yet at the end of it all, survival must prevail.
The abandonment of wordy dialogue in favor of dense visual composition, the aural magic of Ennio Morricone’s score and Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals” (so appropriate), and the fresh faces of a very young Richard Gere, Sam Shepard, Brooke Adams and the captivating child actor, Linda Manz, all weave together a simple American fable of lasting impression.
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.
the tagline didn’t lie at all, my ears, my eyes, my senses, are overwhelmed.,
i didn’t usually paid much attention at the score, but this great score from ennio morricone is simply irresistible., and the cinematography is drop-dead gorgeous. The tone, the beauty of the nature, the angle, it’s all mixed up beautifully.,
i know this film is widely-known for its physical beauty, but there is something more important and more initial about this movie (and all terrence malick movies) beside that physical thing, there is certain deep feeling and emotion about the story, and crafted with beautiful and magical words of narration.,
and when you have those two variables, you could only ended up with one result, a beautiful movie.,
and in ‘days of heaven’ malick brings up that beautiful movie with a tragic love story between three adult characters through the eyes of a little girl., although most of the moments in this movie shared only in those three adults characters, this film is about the little girl, about her life, her days of heaven, and her lost.,
this is one of the most beautiful movie that ever made, i would definitely bet my money for that..
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.
The composition speaks volumes of information, however if the viewer does not abstract the arrangement of objects into meaning, or translate the microcosm created by a vignette into the macrocosm of the film they will not be disoriented or lost. The mise-en-scene, or the visual environment, in Days of Heaven is not just a setting for the actors; it is a protagonist, complete with its own stories to communicate, and the ability do so. Many filmmakers do not give this priority to composition, or the image, and this is what makes Days of Heaven so unique, it exemplifies the power of the composition as a tool of communication. It is as Martin Scorsese says, “Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.”
- Currently 3.0/5 Stars.
Well lets get the obvious out of the way. The film is beautiful to look at. Truly beautiful. Morricone’s score is great and the performances are solid but the actors don’t get much of a chance to shine as there is so little dialog. We get a bit of drama but before you know it we’re back looking at this beautiful world again. Yet somehow it still works. Somehow we follow this story and understand it. I must say though, I didn’t think much of the ending. Regardless, I think Malick is a very interesting film-maker and I look forward to seeing the rest of his work.
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.
In 1916, Industrial change takes on, man moved by the will to undo their poverty became the hand that moved the machine in exchange for money, their employers became more richer and powerful, they don’t need you, if you go, they can have someone else do your job. Harvest is sanctified, Amen, beginning the masses to account the vast fields of corn with naked hands in summer and in winter, sun and ice aside your specified work, you are sweating in heat or shaking in cold, your brothers and sisters, your father and mother are here to stay as long as the fields are giving their fruit. Micro cells of friendship are made, you are their companions and they are yours, play with them, she becomes your wife, your son is born here, and so you must work today and tomorrow, everybody looks back, every day before seems alike today. At last, harvest season is over and you go empty handed, it wasn’t worth it, the money will last for some small luxuries, not enough to break away form this miserable life, new world of profits for the already rich, you have nothing, next year you will be back to barely support your self with the low payment, isn’t your back broken and wasted?
Days of Heaven is made out of three essential masterful patterns; first the smooth and haunting photography created by the great Nestor Almendros (winner Best Photography, 1979 Academy Awards assisted by Jack Fisk). The vast golden fields shot with the Magic Hour technique enlightened with a sensual slow camera movement makes every frame both delightfully exuberant and elegant. The second essential pattern is the music, Camille Saint Saen’z Aquarium (from Carnival of the Animals) is not only used as the main theme, Ennio Morricone conveys smooth variations and tempos recomposing the piece with such a delicate taste that the visuals manifest the narration explicit of silent films. The poetic result of celluloid impressions, plus Leo Kottke’s music is used to transmid the flavor of this people’s lives. Finally (and most important), director Terrence Malick (winner Best Directorial Achievement, Cannes Film Festival, 1978), takes this two patterns, and magnifies them with his unconventional direction, slow pace with an lyrical structure of landscapes in between the characters delivering a modest masterpiece of film History. Just like every great director, his the mastermind behind this, and Malick’s narration becomes aware of the simple lives of its characters who won’t be missed by no one else but then selves. The cast exposes the loneliness and perils of such a forgotten social class, Bill, Abby, the Farmer, and Bill’s little sister, are representative of their time and its people’s personalities, some family for sure experienced what they experienced as the very low working class, unlimited free and in love, caught in misery by God’s will, money unfortunately in this conditions, is the difference, you lack of it and so you are mark as disposable; What else can you do? Accept it.
Days of Heaven is a very simple but very beautiful story composed in a real cinematographic terms, the right images with the right music and sound (with just the enough speeches from the actors to expose the plot), resulting in more than visual potency, only this time is both a film and poem.
Pale Autumn days, streams of water aside golden corn landscapes, hell by outcasts of heaven, next season will come no, matter what.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
A glorious tone poem of a film, Terrence Malick’s ‘Days Of Heaven’ exists in recollection as a magic cinematic glow of warmth, a feeling more than a memory. Malick takes the much used scenario of ’lover’s on the run’, as he did with his striking debut ‘Badlands’, and turns what is a standard love triangle into something special as he twists it in myriad ways, playing with and against our expectations. On the surface it’s criminal versus good man, wealthy landowner versus poor worker, but Malick digs deeper and finds level most American films can only guess at. Instinctively perhaps he affected a kind of European aesthetic, and his choice of Truffaut’s cameraman Nestor Almendros to shoot it proved to be an inspiried one as the look of the film is intrinisic to it’s artistic merit. Malick recruited both Almendros and actor Sam Shepherd by mentioning it would approximate a silent film style of cinema, and over the course of production removed much of the dialogue from what was filmed.
Bill (Richard Gere) and Abby (Broooke Adams) are the lovers on the run, and straight away we are aware that Bill is capable of bad things. The couple with Bill’s little sister Linda (Linda Manz) in tow, hide out on a Texas wheat farm working as labourers. On the picturesque train journey with many poor immigrants Linda is told stories of apocalyptic prophesies that foreshadow events of Biblical proportions in the film. The lonely and aloof owner of the wheat farm, who remains nameless, is played by playwrite Sam Shephard in his first acting role and he becomes enamoured of Abby and finds himself falling in love. The subterfuge is that the Farmer is told Bill and Abby are brother and sister, so he assumes the road is clear to pursue Abby. His situation is further complicated by the fact that he has a terminal illness and knows his days are numbered. Bill encourages Abby to marry the farmer, hoping she’ll inherit his money when he’s soon dead and they’ll all be on easy street. The Farmer marries Abby but his illness does not progress quick enough for Bill’s liking. As the atmosphere builds like a portent of nature’s capriciousness the struggle for the protagonists to make sense of their relationships with each other is mirrored in the struggle of the relationship with the environment. Nature has her say in a plague of locusts and a rampaging fire, both destructive and cleansing. The love triangle is sorted out by no less cataclysmic methods.
The two men essentially represent the ‘other’ and are battling versions of themselves, imagining that what each other has is preferable to their own lot. The Farmer imagines Bill in a community where he feels connected and wanted, company and bonhomie of which the Farmer has none. Bill imagines the kind of freedom the Farmer’s money would offer him, and also a cure for his insecurities regarding ‘ownership’ of Abby. Abby demonstrates that possession of someone else is an impossibility on any terms, and only love freely given is worth having. Love can be a changing and fickle beast, as prone to the winds of change as any natural entity, and in this world all is impermanence
It may be one of the few major films where the male lead assents to ‘pimping’ the female lead for gain, as moral lines are continually blurred. The Farmer is after all exploiting an unequal power arrangement to bed Abby, who agrees to Bills entreaties. The action is minimal, the mood is all. The film is propelled by a pitch perfect laconic voice over by her sister Linda (Linda Manz) a late addition in post-production and ironically enough one that provided the key for Malick to make a more ‘silent’ film than he had planned, but the results are touching and unforgettable.
The pacing is moody and very European, the photography so magnificent it won Almendros the Academy Award and set new standards of location excellence. The detail in the sets and costumes are impressive, Adams is vulnerable and believable, Gere is suitably angst ridden and torn and Shepard is cool and understated, at the centre of this very human struggle. The setting is stark and the Farmers homestead, which was built as a complete entity rather than a facade, is like some medieval castle surrounded by a sea of wheat. Gere is just another peasant, looking on with envious eyes, ready to overthrow the robber-baron within. His trojan horse is Abby, he just doesn’t expect her to fall in love with the Lord of the manor. The best laid plans of mice and men…
As a Harvard philosophy major Malick’s works possibly have deeper resonances and layers than many of his 1970’s Hollywood Renaissance contemporaries, and this would continue until his Magnum Opus in 2011, ‘Tree Of Life’, where what was once effortlessly suggested in his early work seems to have become self-conscious and indulgent. He got his start in the same milieu that threw up Jack Nicholson and the production compant BBS, indeed Bert Schneider produced ‘Days Of Heaven’ to the extent he mortgaged his house to cover any overages, and being a Malick film there were plenty. Gere was reportedly not happy with Malick’s working methods, and supposedly tried to have him removed from the film, not impressed that the quite wordy script was cut down so much in the almost 2 year period it took Malick to edit the film. He seems to have softened his criticism since in light of critical re-appraisal. It may have taken 2 years to edit and re-shoot some inserts in order to make sense of the new approach, but the results are forever. A stunning cinema experience to get lost in again and again.