Days of Heaven (1978) (PG)
There's something about Terrence Malick's movies that make them immediately recognizable and invariably intriguing and "Days of Heaven" is no exception to this.
The movie follows the times of a poor "family" from Chicago as they travel to the West and look for some sort of job. Bill and Abby are lovers but they don't want to tell anyone so they implore the Biblical way of telling everyone that they're brother and sister. Bill's actual sister, Linda, is with them as well. She is the narrator of the movie, the voice over is one of Malick's most tried and true techniques and it's no surprise why. It lets you believe that you're really inside the character's mind. It creates a very intimate feeling as are associated with all his films.
Linda is as unique a character that has ever been created. She seems to be the combination of Briony from "Atonement" and Bonnie from "Bonnie and Clyde"; but totally original and in her own world.
Bill, Abby, and Linda settle down on a wheat farm that belongs to a young man who's dying. As soon as he sets eyes on Abby he falls in love and Bill suggests that she exploits him while he's still living. Unbeknownst to the farmer, Bill overhead a conversation between the doctor and the farmer regarding the man's health.
So Abby starts a romance with the man and things play out as smoothly as possible until one little snag disrupts everything—Abby realizes that she might be falling in love with the farmer.
Malick's eye for the ethereal and surreal is very much tamed in "Days of Heaven" though it's still very much present. The plot is simple and easily accessible as opposed to his more recent work "The Tree of Life".
But Malick still finds time for his character's to raise philosophical points, the most obvious one being that man has a dual nature. Every Malick film that I've seen has this observation stuck in it. For "The Tree of Life" it was the way of nature versus the way of grace; in "The Thin Red Line" it was compassion versus command; and for "Days of Heaven" is good versus evil. In humanity there is a little bit of both inside us and we have to choose whether or not we are going to be good or bad. It's deceptively simple and devastatingly effective.
It was movies like this one that built a platform for Malick to let him do the pictures that he wanted.
The thing about "Days of Heaven" that makes it so interesting is its small cast and lack of character's names. The farmer doesn't have a name, only Bill, Abby and Linda have names.
Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, and Sam Sheppard play the three adult figures and they're rounded out by the great Linda Manz who really makes this picture.
"Days of Heaven" isn't as impactful or as haunting as Malick's other films but it is a very unique and intimate portrait of life.
Score: 3 and half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones