Bill and Abby, a young couple who to the outside world pretend to be brother and sister are living and working in Chicago at the beginning of the century. They want to escape the poverty and hard labor of the city and travel south. Together with the girl Linda (who acts as the narrator in the movie) they find employment on a farm in the Texas panhandle. When the harvest is over the young, rich and handsome farmer invites them to stay because he has fallen in love with Abby. When Bill and Abby discover that the farmer is seriously ill and has only got a year left to live they decide that Abby will accept his wedding proposal in order to make some benefit out of the situation. When the expected death fails to come, jealousy and impatience are slowly setting in and accidents become eventually inevitable. Written by
Theo de Grood <email@example.com>
You're a peripheral character in someone else's dream
Days of heaven is exactly what this is. The magic hour (when much of the film was shot), those moments before dawn and after dusk when everything is indirect, dreamlike, breathless, heartwaking. There's no real story, as such. Sure, there's a general plot line which should satisfy any casual viewer. This isn't, after all, a hard film to follow. It is simply that the environment is the main character as opposed to the human elements. Linda Manz's young character narrates the story sporadically, like a sleepy traveler beside the campfire telling you of half-forgotten memories, and wonderful, casual observations that will seem clearer in the morning light, but no longer worth mentioning. Her voice is halting and uncertain, belying a personality that is confident in all other respects. Other actors, good (Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard) and not-so-good (Richard Gere) blend in perfectly. Their performances are so understated that you forget they are actors playing characters. Even Richard Gere, who never learned subtlety and would never again employ it, is almost invisible here.
This is not a long film. For all its leisurely pace, ninety-six minutes is all it needs to tell its tale. Terrence Malick is out for sight and sound. There is nothing lost to unneeded expression, nothing not shared in the space in front of you. That leaves cinematographer Néstor Almendros with the freedom to photograph, to observe without opinion whatever seems to be happening most openly before him.
When I first finished watching "Days of Heaven" it felt like waking from a dream. I couldn't be sure how much time has passed. It seemed so long, but the silence was the same, and little had changed outside my window. Nothing but the heavy quiet was all around me, and I felt the desperate desire to move. Everything beneath my feet felt moving, quietly slipping past and all I had to do was put soles to earth and start walking. This is a film of photographs, images of the purest sort. Open your eyes.
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