Malick in To the wonder, The Tree of life and The New World has become a partial parody of himself. The wistful dialogue of characters talking to God. The endless shots of nature. The voice over of the main characters narrating their life. However, if there is a film where all of these Malickism works. It is Days of Heaven.
If you ever want to see the power of visual cinema look no further than Days of Heaven. This is Terrence Malick at the top of his game, he uses breathtaking cinematography by Néstor Almendros shot almost exclusively during golden hour. To tell a story of love, lust, greed and heart break. I haven’t done this because I would miss out on Ennio Morricone beautifully haunting score as well Malick’s famed voice overs. But I am sure I could watch Days of Heaven without any sound and still understand perfectly what is going on throughout. The difference between the Scorsese and Malick’s of this world compared to the vast majority of directors is they are always thinking of the visuals of the film and how a image can tell a story. It is actually I think one of the things Malick has partially forgotten how to do, looking at most of his new films. The visual narrative of ‘To the wonder’ is far less clear even if the imagery by the great Emmanuel Lubezki is still just as amazing.
It is a story set in 1916, it tells the story of Bill (Richard Gere) and Abby (Brooke Adams), who are lovers (pretending to be brother and sister to avoid suspicion of out of marriage relationship) who travel to the Texas Panhandle to harvest crops for a wealthy farmer. Bill encourages Abby to claim the fortune of the dying farmer by tricking him into a false marriage. The sense of doom around this whole film is palpable, you are never quite sure where it is going. But you know things aren’t going to end well one way or the other. Most of the principal story telling for this film is told through the eyes of Linda (Linda Manz), who plays Bill’s actually sister (not a pretend one this time). She is a young girl and looks at the world through a childlike perspective which considering the incredible jaded perspective of the adults in the film i.e. making someone fall in love with you to take their money. A more innocent view of the world is the perfect antidote for these horrible people you have to spend time with.
The music from Days of Heaven is composed by Ennio Morricone who is famed the world over for his amazing ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ score as well as been the most recent academy award winner for best original score for Tarantino’s Hateful Eight. If you listen to the song above it sounds like it could have come from Harry Potter it has a real sense of magic and mystery to it. Morricone was rightfully nominated for an Oscar his work on Days of Heaven. The cinematographer Néstor Almendros did win an Oscar for his work and just looking at images such as the one below it is easy to tell why.
Days of Heaven barely made its money back on its box office release and it only had a already limited budget of $3,000,000. But is now considering a cinematic classic. Often appearing in the lists of greatest American movies ever made. It is a real master piece made by one of the most unique voices in cinema and more than worthy of your attention and time.
Trailers and links