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Critics reviews
Days of Heaven
Terrence Malick United States, 1978
Throughout the film, Shepard lingers somewhere outside of its center of gravity. . . . Malick’s dialogue is sparse and the character is shy, so Shepard does much of his acting through facial expressions, which are so subtle they barely feel like acting. His penetrating gaze seems to look beyond the camera. Like a silent film star, he can speak volumes without as much as a word.
July 05, 2018
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Who would have predicted that DAYS OF HEAVEN would be the most influential American film of the past ten years? A number of movies would be almost impossible without its influence—THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, THERE WILL BE BLOOD (which tipped its hat by employing DAYS’ ingenious production designer, Jack Fisk), most of the work of David Gordon Green—that Malick’s unprecedented approach has come to seem almost familiar.
November 16, 2012
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It’s always a shock to discover that Days of Heaven runs a mere 94 minutes; its scale is so impossibly vast, its perspective so breathtakingly cosmic, that wrapping your arms around it seems a fool’s errand. But if Malick’s movie tells us anything, it’s to be humble in the face of the monumental.
June 28, 2012
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What moves it along as it meanders from thought to image, image to sound is the impressionistic beauty of both Nestor Almendros’ cinematography and Ennio Morriconne’s score.
May 24, 2011
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I vividly remember the experience of sitting in a large, state-of-the-art theater in 1978, encountering this work, which seemed like the shotgun marriage of a Hollywood epic (in 70 mm!) with an avant-garde poem. Wordless (but never soundless) scenes flared up and were snatched away before the mind could fully grasp their plot import; what we could see did not always seem matched to what we could hear.
March 23, 2010
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I have heard the film criticized for being too slow, and too muted, emotionally. All of this is true, I suppose, but I’m not sure I think that’s a fault. Perhaps it’s a fault of the audience, who is primed to wait for events and climaxes, but I think Malick’s mood here is deliberate.
November 12, 2009
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To hell with equivocation or beating around the bush: Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven is the greatest film ever made. And let the word film be emphasized, since Malick’s sophomore masterpiece earns this exalted designation from its position as a work of pure cinema, a concoction of sound and image so formally sumptuous and yet effortlessly poignant that, upon my first viewing as a high schooler, it completely shattered my previous preconceptions about the possibilities afforded by the art form.
October 22, 2007
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Any other film would have provided some strained narrative explanation for why the altercation [at the beginning of the movie] happened… Days of Heaven doesn’t even give us dialogue. In Terrence Malick’s world, this is just something that happens. There are plenty of reasons to admire Days of Heaven: It’s visually gorgeous (with cinematography by Nestor Almendros and Haskell Wexler), it sounds great (Ennio Morricone did the heartbreaking music), and it’s atmospheric.
January 01, 2006
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The film is virtually flawless. An admittedly scant 95 minutes has no business feeling this epic. Andrew Wyeth paintings just don’t move at 24 frames per second, and Edward Hopper in all his warm Americana could show you only the morning after, not the nights before, but you could fill a gallery with Nestor Almendros and Haskell Wexler’s photography.
October 29, 1999
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It was Terrence Malick’s last film before his notorious 20-year hiatus, it was moviegoers’ introduction to Sam Shepard, and it seems almost incontestably (especially after being serenaded in that cinematographers’ ode Visions of Light ) the most gorgeously photographed film ever made.
March 23, 1999
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I implore you nonetheless to take a look at Days of Heaven, or for that matter Badlands, neither of which sacrifice momentum, excitement, or depth of feeling to the meditative, expressionistic style in which Malick not only specializes, but of which he has very nearly proven himself master. Days of Heaven is startling and unusual, but also beautiful and carefully crafted: a celestial experience, indeed, that I could pursue for days on end.
October 01, 1998
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At the risk of being accused of repeating himself, Terrence Malick has here virtually reorchestrated (though with incomparably greater richness) the principal features of Badlands… Where Badlands was about the unilateral influences of untamed landscapes on two young urban delinquents, Days of Heaven widens its perspective to describe no less than mankind, the Earth, and their mutual interaction.
May 01, 1979
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Nestor Almendros’s cinematography is as sharp and vivid as Malick’s narration is elliptical and enigmatic. The result is a film that hovers just beyond our grasp—mysterious, beautiful, and, very possibly, a masterpiece.
October 05, 1978
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