Days of Heaven

© Paramount Pictures, 1978

How is it possible that Terrence Malick wrote and shot this movie in 1978 and we can watch it today for probably the 7th time and it is still one of the most exceedingly gorgeous pieces of filmmaking we’ve ever viewed? Filmed almost exclusively at magic hour, this sparsely dialoged work is a breathtaking look at nature and humanity from the perspective of migrant workers who come to sow the crops of a rich landowner in rural middle America near the turn of the last century. Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard and Richard Gere are as beautiful as they’ll ever be. And Linda Manz (who had never acted before or since) is eerily fascinating as the cigarette-smoking “little sister” seemingly wise beyond her years, yet almost entirely without affect – a striking choice by Malick for the film’s narrator. With an Oscar nominated score by Ennio Morricone, Oscar nominated costume design by Patricia Norris (who was decades ahead of her time with a rucksack-inspired look we now purchase for hundreds of dollars a piece from Matteo) and Oscar winning cinematography by Nestor Almendros, Days of Heaven is as stunning to watch now as it was 30 years ago – quite simply amazing!

10 Comments »

  1. Haven’t even seen this one yet. Too many movies to watch but I really liked Thin Red Line so looking forward to this one! Too bad Malick doesn’t make more movies.

  2. Try to see it if you can – it is so incredibly beautiful & we think very worthwhile :)

  3. Judy Westwood said

    Oh I was so happy to see this post. One of my absolute favorite movies.
    Here’s a wee story.
    About 25 years ago I was at a wedding in Sag Harbor and Brooke Adams was also a guest. After several glasses of wine I went up to her and just said “Days Of Heaven” was one of my lifetime favorite movies. I said a few more things I am sure but it is a bit hazy after all these years. What I do remember, like it was yesterday, is that after I told her how much the movie meant to me she threw her arms around me and gave me a huge hug! A memorable ‘life moment’!

    • What a wonderful, charming story – thank you so much for sharing it with us!

  4. betsy petropoulos said

    would that every picture of me was taken bathed in the warm soft glow of magic hour. my high school head shot for instance.

  5. Chris Allen said

    I’ve always wanted to see this movie, but never have. I did see, in a documentary not long ago, that this film is credited with ushering in the end of the golden era of film making. The director just spent so much time and money on it, that after this, studios started being much tougher. The 70’s really were the greatest time for movies.

    I have two pieces of trivia to add: John Travolta was originally cast in the Richard Gere role, but he couldn’t get out of his Welcome Back Kotter contract. Wonder how that would have gone…

    Also, Lina Manz was in The Warriors. She played the girlfriend of one of the rival gang leaders.

    • Hi, Chris – that is so interesting about John Travolta as well as Linda Manz. We’ll now have to watch The Wanderers with that in mind (also, after IMDBing her – we see that she didn’t exactly disappear, just maybe wasn’t so visible, as in, not in anything else fantastic like this again). We so agree about the amazing ’70s. Do try to see Days … if you can. It is just flabbergasting how lovely and languid and free the film making is. Think you will really enjoy!

  6. Chris Allen said

    I get so moved by a beautifully lit and framed shot, I think this movie may just have me in non-stop tears. I cried during the opening scene of Gladiator, for goodness sake! I think the reason I’ve never seen it is that it’s so rarely on TV. Most of my movie knowledge seems to come from a misspent youth sitting in front of a television. I guess I have to look to Netflix to make it happen. It’s so rainy and dreary here in SF this week that it’s the perfect time for a 3+ hour movie.

  7. Chris Allen said

    Uhm, yikes: http://joeprose.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/08/nobody-effs-wit.html

  8. Wow – such an unbelievable contrast to “Days …” – you’ve got to let us know when you’ve had a chance to watch the original. Hope you enjoy some cozy movie time or at least a nice, sunny day out there! Days of Heaven is definitely worth the Netflix :)

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