Days of Heaven (1978) ***1/2
Directed by Terrence Malick
I’ve got to thank the Internet Movie Database at imdb.com for their plot summary. Having just finished watching Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, I had no true understanding of the plot of the film. I knew that it was about a couple who pretend to be brother and sister and then go live on a farm. They eventually all move into a house after a wealthy man falls in love with the older sister, Abby, played by Brooke Adams. Also, Abby’s younger sister serves as the narrator for the whole film. Things go wrong when the wealthy man discovers that the so-called brother and sister are romantically involved. Next, we get some locusts which terrorize the crop. Finally, the wealthy man snaps and attempts murder, but Bill, played by a young and dashing Richard Gere, is able to kill the wealthy man, simply called the Farmer and played by Sam Shepherd, in self defense.
There were whole chunks of the plot that went right over my head. First of all, the couple is from
As a rule, any film whose plot is excruciatingly hard to understand should be faulted for this. Yet, Days of Heaven is different. For me, the plot took a backseat to the gorgeous images of nature and landscapes and close up shots of leaves or wheat. The film expects the reader to be patient. There’s a fine line between a film demanding patience and a film inviting boredom. Days of Heaven straddles that line. Within the first hour of the film, I think the film falls on the boredom side of the line. Yet, the ending, starting with the locusts, is extremely plot-driven and quite fascinating at that.
Malick is not a director that churns out a movie every year. In fact, in the forty years he’s been directing, he has only directed five films. Malick takes his time and I believe also that he really spends time working on his scripts to make sure they are just right. The cinematography here is gorgeous. The plot—not so much. Further, I was bothered by the sound quality of the DVD. I had to turn the TV way up to hear dialogue, but then every time music or banging begins, I had to turn the TV way down!
Anyway, this isn’t a film I’ll be running to see again anytime soon. I’m glad I saw it but I wasn’t overly invested in or entertained by Days of Heaven.