Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)

Terrence Malick, where have you been all my life? 3 movies of his I’ve seen, and they’re all fucking masterpieces…perhaps this one more than the others. Slow and introspective, focusing on what characters think rather than what they do, and Malick’s trademark narration is at its most effective in this film…in fact, it’s absolutely vital. Where some may deem it a detriment to be so distant from Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, and Sam Shepard, not being able to feel what they feel, just look at who’s narrating, folks. This is all from Linda’s point of view, from the (brilliantly simple) narration onward…we’re seeing this love triangle, Bill’s scheming, and Abby’s internal conflict from Linda’s point of view. I think this is the reason why that now-famous cinematography and the love triangle seem so epic in scope…because it’s from the point of view of a child, who can’t understand that this is just 3 people on the run following a murder…it’s a larger-than-life fable involving her beloved brother and his girlfriend, in a situation and a place they’ve never been before. Here’s a movie where the “unreliable narrator” (think The Great Gatsby for a prime example of that) is crucial to make this incredibly simple story ascend to something much greater and more epic and even mythic.

Of course a well-deserved Oscar win for the unparalleled cinematography (despite the controversy over just who should’ve gotten credit for it), but it’s absolutely criminal that Ennio Morricone’s score, which just about anyone will recognize today from about a dozen car commercials per year, is never attributed anymore to where it originated (I had an “Oh! That’s where it’s from!” moment when the opening credits started). It’s a score as simple and at the same time as epic as the camerawork and the portrayal of the story itself. Just goes to show you that a movie doesn’t need CGI or a 4 hour running time or 26 main characters to be an epic. Sometimes, all you need is 89 minutes, natural photography of a natural sunrise and sunset in a natural setting, real characters doing things that aren’t movie-fied to make them more “interesting”, and real locusts, of course.



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