Sunday, 21 April 2013

Days of Heaven (1978) - ★★★★

Director: Terence Malick
Writer: Terence Malick
Stars: Brooke Adams, Richard Gere, Sam Shepard, Linda Manz, Robert J. Wilke

I can see why critics adore Days of Heaven. It's simple, elegant, original and interesting. As much as I liked this film, I didn't see it as a masterpiece of cinema. At times the pace felt too slow and the characters underdeveloped. However, I can appreciate that this is a great film in almost every aspect.

At first glance the story seems to be about Bill (Gere) and Abby (Adams), a young couple who travel across the country to make ends meat. The story is really about Linda (Manz), a young girl who travels with them and narrates the story. While working on a wheat farm, Bill overhears that the young owner of the farm (Sam Shepard) will die soon. The owner noticably likes Abby, so Bill asks Abby to marry the owner so that they can inherit the farm when he dies. It's a simple story told in a unique and beautiful fashion.

I must say, Terence Malick's films are just visually breathtaking. Days of Heaven made a small farm truly look like a divine paradise. Seeing as this is told in the eyes of Linda, I suppose it was heaven to her. This film is saying that the time she spent on the farm with these people were the best days of her life. Once I grasped the understanding of this, everything just looked and felt right.

Since this is Linda's story, the underdevelopment of the other main characters should be understandable. However, it would've been nice to know Abby more, seeing as she's the one caught in the middle of these crazy circumstances. Sam Shepard did an amazing job in expressing emotions throughout the film whereas Richard Gere did not impress me as much as the others. Even though this is seen through Linda's eyes, it does not excuse the fact that we aren't told enough about Bill.

Ennio Morricone's heavenly score plays so seamlessly with the masterful cinematography. I usually prefer more dialogue, but the sheer beauty of the music and location made the film all the more enjoyable. From sunsets over the fields to flames roaring in the night, this movie had it all.

So in the end, I truly enjoyed this film. It had a good story that was acted out well. I would have liked the characters emotions to become more apparent, even if it wasn't in Malick's vision to do so. It is the marvelous score and cinematography that lifts Days of Heaven to great heights. Does it lift it to masterful heights? I don't think so.

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