Terrence Malick, 1978, USA, 94 min.
The directors second film tells the story of a mill worker, Bill (Richard Gere), who is on the run after he accidentally kills his supervisor. It sounds like a thriller, but Days of Heaven is more of a poetic and magical slice of life than anything else.
Bill and his wife (who he says is his sister), and his real little sister wind up on a wheat plantation. There, the owner (Sam Shepard), falls in love with Bill’s wife Abby (Brooke Adams). Bill knows the farmer is dying and encourages her to be with him. Once he dies, they will be set for life.
The emotions are muted but the cinematography is absolutely stunning. The landscapes, the framing, the movement of the camera, all of it creates an almost mythic atmosphere around life on and around the farm.
It all builds to a stunning sequence where the buried emotions are brought to the surface. The film keeps its distance from the characters, but the reasons are because the film is narrated by Bill’s younger sister, Linda (Linda Manz). She experiences the events of the film from the outskirts. So we the audience experience them the same way, as personal rhythyms hidden under the incredible majesty of life.
This film wins the award “Best Cinematography” for obvious reasons. FYI, the Criterion Blu-ray is the next best thing to seeing this in the theater.