Days of Heaven

Screening on Film
Directed by Terrence Malick.
With Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard.
US, 1978, 35mm, color, 94 min.
Print source: Paramount Pictures

Terrence Malick’s second film is set in the Texas Panhandle in 1916, with a plot out of the operas and stage melodramas of that era:  lovers on the run pose as brother and sister to find work on a farm, only to have the ailing farmer fall in love with the young woman. Malick’s casting and laconic dialogue make earthy poetry out of this situation, which like so many of Malick’s plots is presented as a fall from Eden. With World War I just over the horizon, the loss of innocence detailed by the screenplay is juxtaposed with pristine landscapes beginning to be despoiled by early modern technology. It is the beauty of the film’s imagery that ultimately makes this trope convincing. As was his wont, cinematographer Nestor Almendros shot almost exclusively with natural light, as did Haskell Wexler who succeeded him. In shot after ravishing shot, these two bring Malick’s imagination to lucid life. 

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