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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragedy in twilight
Filmed mostly in twilight, in the pink flush and phosphorescent blue of sunrise or sunset, Days of Heaven is one of the most visually beautiful films ever made. Its beauty contrasts with the harshness of life during the Depression years and with the almost documentary-like observations of the travelling community in America.
The story is a tragic Hardyesque one, with...
Published on 5 April 2003

versus
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully shot and lit, but.......
This picture is certainly a treat for the eyes and ears. Director Terrence Malick has prepared each individual shot with the greatest care prior to shooting; immense thought has gone into the colour co-ordination of costume, props and landscape locations, not to mention shooting at just the right time of day and of course of year - the rotation of the seasons is an...
Published on 16 May 2009 by Humpty Dumpty


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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragedy in twilight, 5 April 2003
By A Customer
Filmed mostly in twilight, in the pink flush and phosphorescent blue of sunrise or sunset, Days of Heaven is one of the most visually beautiful films ever made. Its beauty contrasts with the harshness of life during the Depression years and with the almost documentary-like observations of the travelling community in America.
The story is a tragic Hardyesque one, with a love triangle, reminiscent of the story of Abraham and Sarah, when Abraham lies to Pharaoh about Sarah being his sister rather than his wife. Pharaoh complains to Abraham that he will bring evil to his house...and that's precisely what happens to landowner, Sam Shepard.
Ennio Morricone's score is drawn from Saint Saens' The Aquarium, adding to the beauty of the film but also the sense of inevitability.
Sam Shepard and Brooke Adams are excellent (thank goodness they are not the pretty people of tinseltown!) Richard Gere is at his best ever, not quite in the habit yet of detaching himself from the emotion of the story.
Not many people know this film when I tell them it's one of my all time favourites. I've waited for it since seeing it many years ago - at last I have it for myself!
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An overlooked treasure, 17 Jun. 2003
By 
Syed T Hussain (Solihull, West Midlands United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Days Of Heaven [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
It is very rare to see a film that makes you wish that you could walk through the screen and just allow everything to wash over you. Days of Heaven does that! It is a total visual delight, and married with Ennio Morricone's glorious score makes it a gem of a film. Watch it and you will find that wind blowing through wheat will take on a different perspective altogether.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Watch this stunning classic film and openly weep!, 29 July 2014
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This review is from: Criterion Collection: Days of Heaven [Blu-ray] [1978] [US Import] (Blu-ray)
In ‘Days of heaven’ we meet a anti-hero working in a foundry spending his life with a group of men, all of whom are aimlessly walking round and round in circles all day stoking a blast furnace – the furnace representing ‘Hell’ and the ‘circles’ signifying that he was trapped in a repetitive rut and could not see a way out of his dilemma.

We then see the anti-hero ‘miss’ a few ‘turns’ so as to ease his daily toil and get some respite from the constant shovelling of coal into a blast furnace to make someone else rich, and from this we learn that this person is an ‘opportunist’.

Seeing the anti-hero is in the wrong position in the ‘line’, and realising that the anti-hero has been ‘skiving’ off work by malingering, the Foreman comes over and orders the anti-hero back to work.

The anti-hero stands up to the foreman, a fight breaks out, we then see that the anti-hero is EXTREMELY aggressive and will not be ordered around – and he unintentionally KILLS the foreman and then runs away.

What we have just witnessed is ENSLAVEMENT.

Hearing that there might be work available harvesting corn on the wide open prairies of the American Pan Handle, the anti-hero ‘cons’ the person employing staff into giving the anti-hero a ‘sacking’ job – a labour intensive job bailing corn and packing it into sacks ready for distribution – a job the anti-hero has no idea how to do.

Arriving at the massive farm we see the extreme hard labour involved working each and every day from dawn till dusk bailing and bagging the corn for a pittance of a wage. We then meet the owner of the farm – a young hard-nosed ‘hire-and-fire’ capitalist who uses his work-force merely as machines to ‘get the job done’ and does not have any consideration for their welfare – a single bail of corn being all that was required to be sold to pay a labourer for his daily toil.

Again, we have just witnessed ENSLAVEMENT on a GRAND SCALE.

A foreman ‘docks’ the anti-hero an hours pay for allegedly creating ‘waste’ and the anti-hero rebels at the injustice and is dismissed on the spot, but a dark-haired woman advises the anti-hero to ‘back off’, and together the shrewd quick-thinking pair work a ‘con’ by saying that the anti-hero is her ‘brother’, and she is widowed and has a ‘daughter’; and they would all starve if the anti-hero lost his job.

Worried that the woman might report the foreman to the owner of the plantation and in so doing, reveal the foreman is actually pulling a ‘scam’, the foreman permits the anti-hero to stay. We see later that everyone is paid their dues for the day, and there isnt any ‘docking’ of pay; and the Foreman is working a ‘sharp practice’ by ‘fining’ people and pocketing the ‘fines’ as a ‘perk’.

This is EXPLOITATION on a GRAND SCALE.

The anti-hero and the woman sleep together and the next day a worker rudely asks if the anti-hero’s sister ‘keeps him warm’ at night (in other words, the worker is implying that as they are brother and sister, they are committing incest) and we once again see the anti-hero’s aggression as he stands up for the woman - which leads to the pair forming a relationship.

Now as luck would have it, there are several turns of events that fall in the couples favour; the first being that the young plantation owner has seen the ‘dark haired beauty’ and begins to ‘court’ her. This gets the ‘brother’ close to the plantation owner.

The second event is when the ever opportunist ‘brother’ helps himself to some ointment to soothe the cuts to the woman’s hands caused by the chaffing of the straw, and the anti-hero overhears a doctor say that the plantation owner has LESS THAN A YEAR TO LIVE.

Seeing how the plantation owner is exploiting everyone by working them to death for his own gain, and being victims of the corruption that is taking place with the foremen, the couple plan to work a ‘big con’ as RETRIBUTION by persuading the plantation owner to marry the woman so that when he dies in a few months time, the woman would inherit a business worth over a $1 million a year and then THEY can then get married.

The sham wedding leads to the third event - the brother getting to live in the plantation owner’s house along with his ‘widowed sister’ and her ‘daughter’; which ensues in a close ‘friendship’ forming between the two men – which gives the anti-hero direct clandestine access to the woman – making for a thrilling sexual relationship as the woman exploits the plantation owner for all that she can ‘milk’ from him - which as we see by the woman’s jewellery and gowns - is LOTS.

One scene shows the two men out hunting with gun dogs and ‘twelve-bore’ rifles – rifles that fire a shower of lead shot ‘pellets’ that ‘spread out’ into a wide ‘ring of death’ as the pellets travel through the air – making it almost impossible to ‘miss’ when shooting at a slow-moving game bird.

The two men come upon a pair of grouse and a ‘beater’ persuades the male bird to take flight so as to provide ‘sport’ for the plantation owner – who promptly shoots at the fleeing bird and kills it. We then see the sadistic character of the anti-hero – who chooses to shoot the next bird dead as it quietly pecks the corn, rather than give the bird a reasonable chance to escape.

What then follows is through better medication, the plantation owner’s condition is halted and the couple realise that they are never going to get their hands on the vast fortune – and it all goes from bad to worse as the four horsemen of the Apocalypse make their appearance:

A plague of locusts turns up and we see the crop being swiftly eaten by the millions of insects.

We see the insects copulating and spraying their larvae everywhere – so that subsequent harvests would now be eaten the moment the corn was ripe – bringing doom to the farm unless the locusts and their larvae are destroyed. Then in a sensational scene, seeking to disfigure the anti-hero, the plantation owner torches the corn that has not yet been harvested – and we see the anti-hero’s anger emerge - which brings about devastating results that has you riveted to your seat as the twists and turns of the tragedy unfold.

So loved the 'love triangle' – the 'roper' in love with the con artist and the 'mark' in love with the 'roper' as she prepared to 'sting' him for everything that he possessed - both while he was alive - and afterwards when the 'death-sting' would give the two con artists everything they sought.

The question now arises - did the 'roper' fall in love with the 'mark' or was the ultimate objective ALWAYS to inherit a HUGE farm on the American Panhandle that was netting a profit of $1 MILLION a YEAR in the early part of the twentieth century – and she put on a convincing act in an attempt to land the fortune.

The film is full of twists and turns and it has a BRILLIANT ending that will STUN you.

Three worthy things of note:

The first is how the director contrasted the carriages and the steam driven farm machinery with the 'modern' cars and aircraft that were now 'making their mark' in America to help us to realise that the 'mark' was receiving much better treatment from more advanced medicine, and he was going to live a LONG time.

The second is the STUNNING cinematography - especially the strong use of 'autumnal' colours to show an age that was rapidly fading away.

And the third is the 'stills' at the beginning depicting early American life as the Industrial Revolution arrived from Britain and revolutionised everything in a matter of just THREE YEARS; and the 'time-lapse' photography of the corn growing, to show the YEARS passing by; and the close-ups of the locusts devouring the corn - which the locusts smell from HUNDREDS of miles away from where they hatch - shown by the owner of the farm smelling the corn to see when it was 'green' so that he would know when the corn was 'ripe' for harvesting. Just BRILLIANT!

Have a LARGE box of tissues on hand when you watch it!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still my favourite film!, 17 May 2008
By 
TrickeyMickey (Canterbury, England) - See all my reviews
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I was fortunate enough to see Days of Heaven on the big screen in the early 80s. Its stunning combination of landscape, image, sound and music was sheer sensory overload. Many people find the film's simple story lacking, but the familiar love triangle neatly encapsulates classical themes of love, desire, jealousy, murder and revenge. Traditionally these are foundations for epic tragedy, but Malick portrays the human story as insignificant within the eternal spiral of the universe. His obsession is to capture the momentous roll of day into night, the flourish and decay of the seasons and the gentle whisper of the breeze. Even the flutter of a single blade of grass has its own grandeur. The muted characters struggle for transitory life against these timeless forces. When jealousy escalates to murder, Nature takes symbolic, biblical revenge.

Days of Heaven is dominated by its legendary cinematography and score - generally acknowledged to be some of the most beautiful imagery and music ever set to film. You can lie back and luxuriate in these elements time after time and really savour the atmosphere. I know there are greater masterpieces on my shelf, and it doesn't hold up so well on the smaller screen, but this is my favourite movie and I return to it time after time.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous!, 22 Jan. 2007
By 
F. Candlish "frc" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Days Of Heaven [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
Ostensibly a story involving a love triangle between a wealthy farmer and two impoverished migrant workers set in rural Texas in the early part of the Twentieth century.
As you would expect from Terence Mallick the film is so much more; the story is secondary to the wonder and beauty the director sees in the natural world. The characters and their story are only a part of a world driven by and kept moving by eternal conflict. Mallick's camera is equally interested in the wind blowing through wheat fields or locusts swarming at dusk.
I don't think it reaches the meditative highs of his next film- The Thin Red Line, but, the film is less ponderous and is a wonderful visual experience.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Visual Poetry, 11 Sept. 2006
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This review is from: Days Of Heaven [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
To hell with equivocation or beating around the bush: Terrence Malick's 1978 "Days of Heaven" is the greatest film ever made. There's nothing else on earth like "Days of Heaven." I love it not only for its much-acclaimed cinematography (Nestor Almendros and Haskell Wrexler), or the evocation of a particular time and place (I'm not even sure we know the when or where of it-- pre WW1 ?). This is a mythic film.

Sam Shepard and Richard Gere are quite convincing in portraying, with almost no dialogue, the conflicting emotions and suffering of the rivals for Brooke Adams' affections. Adams also is well cast as the beautiful girl from humble circumstances who is at once corrupted and the source of all truth. And the narration by the child is a wonderful touch that adds an ironic perspective to the tale. Leo Kottke's guitar on the soundtrack is yet another perfect touch. What keeps it real is Terence Malick's passion for natural detail, from locusts and wild turkeys to the guile and weakness in human nature. And his characters' simple, American vernacular, especially the narration of the young girl (Linda Manz), adds another rhythm to the golden-hour visual poetry. Every shot is suitable for framing. Watching the movie again recently, i was struck by the little girl's narration, its her story, told by her, and its subject is the way that hope and cheer have been beaten down in her heart.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully shot and lit, but......., 16 May 2009
By 
Humpty Dumpty (Wall St, Upton Snodsbury) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Days Of Heaven [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
This picture is certainly a treat for the eyes and ears. Director Terrence Malick has prepared each individual shot with the greatest care prior to shooting; immense thought has gone into the colour co-ordination of costume, props and landscape locations, not to mention shooting at just the right time of day and of course of year - the rotation of the seasons is an important feature in the developing story. There is a rich soundtrack of amplified, natural sound plus the appealing film music by Enrico Morricone against which the sparse dialogue almost seems to float.

I think the question is whether the look and sound of the film are married to excellence in all the other elements that make up a really fine picture; and here I think there is at least room for doubt. The narrative of the triangular relationship between employer and two labourers is quite elliptical, and I feel there is an emotional coldness at the heart of it which prevents full engagement by the audience. This also means that the two incidents of violence at the beginning and end of the film lack full impact; and this before one considers whether they are well integrated into the thrust of the film.

I enjoyed the visual aspects of the picture so much that the drawbacks outlined above were all the more disappointing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Days of Heaven | Exquisite, 6 May 2014
By 
This review is from: Days Of Heaven [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
'Days of Heaven' is as near to a perfect film as one may hope to see.

From the start, director Terrence Malick quite literally immerses the audience in a sense of place and a sense of past. The sepia photographs which drift across the opening credits root the audience in the historical context and allude to the hardships of the American working class at the turn of the century. Yet with his use of Saint-SaŽns' 'Aquarium' from the 'Carnival of the Animals' suite, Malick employs a positively ethereal melody with which to heighten the artistic sense and sensibility of the audience.

This duality plays out during the subsequent film, where each exquisitely rendered shot plays in sharp contrast to the struggles, tragedies and inadequacies of human existence. The central drama which motivates the film is a tale of these moods and one executed with purpose and skill.

Of 'Days of Heaven', I have three principal criticisms. The first, is that I often found myself unable to understand a word Gere was mumbling; I'll certainly resort to subtitles upon my next viewing. The second is that whilst I admired the plot, the cinematography was much more engrossing. Any viewer of Malick's later, more impressionistic works, will hardly be surprised by this, but for a man of his talents, surely he is capable of doing both well? Finally, the end was far too abrupt and inconclusive, which is surprising in a film which is otherwise well pitched and measured.

Whatever its faults, however, 'Days of Heaven' is that rare thing in film or art: a true masterpiece. It cannot be explained, it has to be seen and it must be experienced.
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4.0 out of 5 stars So sad, so pitiful, so spiritless, 20 Sept. 2013
By 
This review is from: Days Of Heaven [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
That's a very sad film about young people in the USA of 1916-1918.

A couple, probably not married, pretending to be brother and sister escape hard work in Chicago and go south to Texas and work on a farm. The young and isolated parentless farmer falls in love with the woman who accepts to stay provided her "brother" and the girl presented as her sister who is travelling with them can stay too.

The ambiguous situation did not last long and when the next harvest comes the drama come to its natural end in a cloud of locusts, an accidental fire of the wheat field and the death of the young farmer duly married to the woman who had managed to fall in love in a way or another with him but could not choose.

No escape possible in that case and the funny hunt against buffaloes or rabbits or coyotes becomes a hunt after a murderer. And justice will not cost one single penny, not even for the rope.

The woman and the girl have to disappear in a way or another and they do.

That's a time in America when being on the road, or railroad, being on the move was part of the life style but at the same time part of the poverty and the only way for many to escape poverty, overexploitation, and crowded misery. But then obscurity and lies do not lead to a clear future and all human relations get exploded in a jiffy. Survival is then the only objective left and the means are not supposed to matter very much.

Don't think this has disappeared. In our societies there is still 20 to 25% of the population that is under the level of self-sufficiency, be it in education, in financial means, in hygiene or health, and they run around trying to survive in cardboard boxes or dealing and peddling anything they can put their hands on. It is sad indeed but there is no village to look after these lost souls. Sooner or later it turns catastrophic for them, or they turn catastrophic for the others with a gun and a few rounds of bullets. They say it is nothing but insanity. Is it really only that?

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
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4.0 out of 5 stars A cold piece of art, 19 Oct. 2013
By 
Mr. Ja McLaughlin "Tony mac1" (Dunfermline) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Criterion Collection: Days of Heaven [Blu-ray] [1978] [US Import] (Blu-ray)
In many ways this is the prototype Terrence Malick film; visually sumptuous, enigmatic, emotionally cold and constantly juxtaposing mankind's transient endeavours against the timeless force of nature. In recent years this once elusive director has threatened to become almost prolific, and although he is without doubt a major artist, a little of him tends to go a long way. I do hope he doesn't end up becoming a bit of a parody of himself.

This film was apparently a chaotic shoot and a two-year slog in the editing room. These problems are obvious from the constant dissolves from one fragmentary scene to another, and give the film a rather choppy flow. Fortunately, the conventional love-triangle plot was simple enough to just about hang the story together, though it's little more than a backdrop to the evocative visuals and vast landscape.

This will never be a film to stir the blood; Malick is too academic a director for that. The minimalist dialogue and oblique, mumbled narration - which themselves have become Malick staples - wilfully stop the viewer becoming emotionally engaged. But it's elusive tone and painterly landscapes stay with you nonetheless, and it's rise to annointed masterpiece was pretty much guaranteed when Mallick then took a 20 year break.
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Criterion Collection: Days of Heaven [Blu-ray] [1978] [US Import]
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