Friday, January 06, 2012

136 - Days of Heaven (1978)

DVD Box
After finding their rich boss is about to die soon a Chicago couple hatch a plan to get rich quick.

It's around the time of the Great Depression and a young couple stumble upon work at a farm gathering the year's harvest. Bill (Richard Gere) and Abby (Brooke Adams) pretend to be brother and sister to stop people talking and are joined by Bill's real sister Linda (Linda Manz), who acts as the movie's narrator.

The landowner takes a shine to Abby and when Bill overhears that the landowner is due to die within a year he encourages Abby to marry him so that they can all stay on at the farm.

However, jealousy soon sets in, leaving Abby torn between the two men.

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
Days of Heaven is a photographic masterpiece. The sweeping plains of the Mid-West is masterfully encapsulated proving that director Terrence Malick was absolutely correct when deciding to shoot the majority of the film at the magic hour between dusk and night. The film looks beautiful throughout and the contrast between the murky factory at the start and the subsequent visit to the corn fields is remarkable.

Unfortunately, with all the time spent on panning the camera around and taking close ups of ears of corn or ducks, the storyline simply doesn't move for the first half an hour. It is more like watching a digital photo frame full of your favourite scenery snaps which are not so much chronological but more like illogical. Equally, perhaps I'm just a bit too much of a pommy but I couldn't even understand what Linda Manz was saying during her narration half the time.

The film does improve towards the second half, leading to a dramatic and shocking display of a biblical-style locust plague, reminiscent of how finely balanced life was during the Depression. Also enjoyable was the introduction of the flying circus which displayed that raw technology and civilisation wasn't too far from the seemingly remote farmhouse.

Overall, Days of Heaven is perhaps a grand display of photography, but offers far less in the way of storyline.

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