Sunday, July 20, 2014

637. Days of Heaven (1978)

Running Time: 95 minutes
Directed By: Terrence Malick
Written By: Terrence Malick
Main Cast: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, Linda Manz, Robert J. Wilke
Click here to view the trailer

Been re-watching Oz on HBO on Demand with my wife, since she's never seen it and am being reminded of just how awesome that series was! I still remember discovering it for the first time, on recommendation from my brother (add another one to that ever growing list) and just binge watching it like a junkie. Seriously, if anyone ever wonders why I'm a fan of professional wrestling, it's because when it's great wrestling can be just like Oz. Great characters, good guys/bad guys, feuds, build-ups and great climaxes. I kind of wish the creators hadn't decided to end the show after only six seasons. They could've easily interchanged characters in and out and kept the show running for as long as they wanted to. It would never be hard to introduce new characters and thus, create new feuds/interactions. If you haven't seen the show though, you need now!


So after revisiting Badlands the other night and taking to it, I was eager to check out Days of Heaven for the first time - a film that I'd heard many great things about, which included it having mind blowing cinematography. Anyway, the wife worked night shift again last night, which gave me the opportunity to check it out. Let's not dawdle...

This shot literally made me snap my head back and mouth "WOAH", not unlike Joey Lawrence.
Richard Gere stars as Bill, a steel mill worker in Chicago who, in the very beginning of the film, intentionally kills a boss at the mill where he works. Fearing prosecution, Bill takes his girlfriend Abby (Adams) and his little sister Linda (Manz) and hits the road - destination: Texas. They hop a train, deciding to tell anyone who asks that Abby is also Bill's sister ("because otherwise people will talk") and eventually arrive in the Texas panhandle and don't waste time getting jobs as laborers on a rich man's farm. While looking for some medicine for Abby's blistered hands, Bill overhears a doctor talking about the farm owner (Shepard), saying that he has less than a year to live - dying from an unspecified illness. Other workers begin to question whether Bill and Abby are really sisters, seeing as how they are so publicly passionate with one another. After a while, the farm owner begins to eye Abby and talk to Bill about her, asking how he knows her. Bill sticks with the brother/sister story and keeps listening while the farm owner tells him that he likes her. Bill goes back to Abby with this information and convinces her to pursue a relationship with him, so that when he dies (which is presumably soon), they can inherit his wealth - granted the two marry. She reluctantly agrees and the rest you'll have to witness for yourself, because we're getting into spoiler territory here.

Loved every image of that giant house towering over everybody, everything. Great house!

Boy, where do I start? How bout with, I didn't care for it. First of all, the damn thing LOOKED amazing - there's no questioning that. I wanted to like it so much because the cinematography coupled with the Ennio Morricone score was enough to make any film snob cream their pants. However, I'm big on story and that's where Days of Heaven left me hanging. I'll even go so far as to say the acting wasn't anything worth writing home about either, a young Richard Gere and a seemingly talentless Brooke Adams in a movie that looked way too good for what they deserved. In regards to it's dialogue and story, the film is just TOO quiet. At times, I felt as if I was intruding on conversations between the characters, intimate ones that I wasn't meant to barge in on. There weren't any pronounced exclamations, the kind of words that make cinema - just muttering that we were happening upon. And as much as I appreciated the Sissy Spacek narration in Badlands, I felt the exact opposite with the Linda Manz narration here. I don't know how old she was supposed to be in the movie, but THE BOOK says she was seventeen at the time. Maybe, I'm crazy but I was viewing her as a twelve or thirteen year old and thinking the whole time that these narrations were WAY too adult for this character - adolescents wouldn't be having this deep of a perspective on the human race.

I'm pretty sure ever single shot in the movie was blocked to perfection and perfectly calculated. Here, a simple shot of a scarecrow in a wheat field is magnificence. 
On the IMDB message board for this movie, someone brought up an excellent point. Why did Bill and Abby lie and say they were brother and sister? I know that they give the whole "people will talk" explanation, but if that's the case, you could just as easily lie and say Abby was your wife, if you were Bill. The first response to this poster's query? Because without that lie, there is no movie. EXACTLY! It's a pointless lie and yet, the entire movie hinges on it. Someone else mentioned that if they actually wanted people to believe they were bro/sis, why were they so openly affectionate - because obviously they were, as other laborers noted it. It's just sloppy storytelling and again, it's so disheartening to say that, because everything else is etched out to perfection. The thing that really gets me though, is the fact that the IDEA was superb! If you could figure out a believable way as to why Bill and Abby had to pretend to be siblings, then the IDEA is a fantastic one. They meet a wealthy man, he takes a liking to her and so that they can inherit his dollars, they stick to the bro/sis story and Abby marries him, so that when his impending death strikes, the real couple can inherit the whole shebang. WONDERFUL IDEA! It's just the execution of that idea that is lacking and it's a real travesty, because otherwise, we'd be talking about 10/10 picture.

What was the deal with the locusts? Was there some kind of religious message in the background that was going totally over my head?
One has to wonder if Terrence Malick disappeared for twenty years because he was on the lam with his girlfriend after killing someone. Seriously, what was his fascination with the whole love on the run gimmick? Something else occurred to me while I was watching this movie and I'll leave you with this thought/question: Have a group of director's ever teamed up to make a single movie, where each of them tell the exact same story, just their own interpretation of it? By "teamed up" I'm thinking like New York Stories or Four Rooms - where director's get together to make one movie, but different sections of that one movie. The only time I can think of one story being told two different ways is Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda and that was just him telling a story twice. If this has never happened, I think it would be a really cool idea. You get together three directors, you give them a generic script and let them run wild with it and add their own artistic genius. They can make it a comedy or drama, cast men or women in different roles, whatever it is they wanna do and then put them all together in one film and let the audience decide which they like best. Has it been done? I don't think so.

RATING: 6/10  I just can't bare to rate this one any lower and yes, the camera work is THAT GOOD! I seriously want to rewatch this one someday, because I still want to like it. This film is like a beautiful woman with a terrible personality.


July 20, 2014  6:13pm


  1. Once again well done for a good bash at something you were.. well not all that keen on.
    At first I was dissapointed it was not 'Badlands II'. Well, that's not true.. I would have hated Badlands II I'm sure.. What i'm trying to say is..This one did't QUITE capture the something special Badlands held.. but all the elements were there..
    So I'll give it an 8, and feel as if I'm being a bit mean...

    1. See I couldn't even go close to 8, but still felt like I was cheating it by going 6. But, it's the best representation of my overall opinion and like you, I wish this could've hit on all cylinders like Badlands did.


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