Days Of Heaven

Days Of Heaven

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Paramount Pictures

Release date: September 13th, 1978
Running time: 94 minutes

Writer and director: Terrence Malick
Composer: Ennio Morricone

Cast: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, Linda Manz

There are no directors like Terrence Malick. Storyteller, visionary, poet and philosopher are just some of the words we can use to describe him, but how can we ever begin to describe his work?

That he is still making films today that have the same resonance with audiences and critics worldwide is also another sign of the power of what he creates and the timeless quality each of his creations share. His work speaks to our souls, the very centre of our beings and this is why he is such an exceptional filmmaker and why we continue to celebrate films such as Days Of Heaven.

Set in 1916, it follows Bill (Richard Gere) who leaves Chicago for Texas, together with girlfriend Abby (Brooke Adams) and his sister Linda (Linda Manz). They pretend that they are siblings but when a shy farmer (Sam Shepard) falls in love with Abby, Bill convinces her to marry him. Not only is he dying, but he has no one to leave his family’s fortune to, something Bill sees an easy solution to.

Days Of Heaven

Marriage life however brings about a healing in the farmer and his new lease of life troubles Bill who grows more and more discontent as he waits for the time his poverty will end.

Narrated by Linda Manz and with a haunting score by Ennio Morricone, Days Of Heaven contains some of the most beautiful and affecting moving images ever captured for the screen, shot during the “magic hour”, the first and last hour of sunlight during the day, giving it that aged sepia tone. It’s an ode to a passage of time that suggests a harmonious state of existence and the impossibility of its lasting beyond a short period of time.

Caught in the decades before World War 1, the Great Depression and World War 2, Days Of Heaven depicts a period where man and nature were just beginning their struggle against each other. As locusts descend of the wheat farm, destroying the crops, a fire consumes anything that was left, and jealousy and erupts from Bill, each part putting an end to the idyllic farming life and forcing the community into the modernity that awaited them.

Days Of Heaven

As with all of Malick’s films, our genre expectations lead us to believe that because certain films are set in a certain place, they will play out in a certain way. The Tree Of Life (2011) looks like science-fiction, The Thin Red Line (1998) looks like a war movie, Badlands (1973) looks like a road movie and Days Of Heaven looks like a western, but the experiences of these films are something else entirely.

We view the film knowing the history that will unfold and we follow it like a stream. This isn’t Red River (1948) or Stagecoach (1939) where there are heroes and villains. Each character is as a flawed and perfect at the same time as we are. They’re just people, this is just land, that’s just nature. And that up ahead, that’s the world, changing, turning and bringing tomorrow as long as tomorrow keeps coming.

About Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.