I was totally blown away by this film. Gosh, no words can express the beauty that this film has. Terrence Malickís Days Of Heaven is film that turns a tragic love triangle into an impressive, beautiful, and absolutely incredible film. It contains elements long lost in modern filmmaking, and masterfully incorporates the importance of cinematography in filmmaking into an integral part of the storyline, making the final product basically irresistible. This epic is Malickís second film five years after his excellent debut Badlands, and then he would descend into obscurity for 20 years before he could emerge again with the equally masterful The Thin Red Line.The film is the story of two lovers, Bill (Richard Gere) and Abby (Brooke Adams), and Billís little sister Linda (Linda Manz, who also narrates) who are living in the brutal hard Chicago at the beginning of the century. When Bill, due to his short-temper, accidentally kills a worker in the steel mill where he was working, the three decide to head south to look for work, and end up in Texas, working in the farmland, and disguising themselves as brother and sister. Itís there that the owner of the farm (Sam Shepard) suddenly falls for Abby. After finding out about the conversation between the farmer and the doctor, that he only has one year to live due to his illness, Bill convinces Abby to marry the farmer, and when he dies, theyíll finally live from the fortune they have long being seeking. But he never died, and the ensuing love triangle, and the suspicions of the farmer about Abby and Billís relationship as brother and sister will soon explode into hatred, jealousy, plague and death.
"Malickís Painterly Tinged Masterpiece"
The main thing about the film that pushes it above any other film that I have seen is nothing less than the cinematography. Malick uses the basic principle of filmmaking to the fullest, relying only on a barebones, but still tight script, but using the camera eye to fill in the rest of the remaining storyline. This is an impressive achievement; every single shot has always a story to tell, not with words, but with images. Image after image, you understand, feel, and react to the behavior and the emotions of the 4 leads. The Texas scenery is breathtaking and authentic (Malick shot the film on the course of the four seasons) to the storyline in terms of the farming scenes. At the climaxing points, also the camerawork is also key here, and is accurate in catching the mood of the actual scene, whether itís fear, happiness or hate, or any visual metaphors that lie within the film, the camera eye catches it all. Itís of the most beautiful statements ever put on film. Cinematographer Nestor Almendros deserved the Oscar, for portraying Malickís vision into its full splendor.
The storyline, and dialogue, though itís laid basically in the background, still plays a key role in most of the scenes, all thanks to the narrating of Linda Manz. Lindaís narrating sounds odd, since in most of the film, her voice seems to be with no emotion whatsoever to whatís happening to his friend and brother. This can be explained probably because her narration sounds more like a reflection and a remembrance, rather than a present narration. Malickís use of a child narrating is pretty clever, since in most love triangles, weíre presented with an inside point of view of the feelings of the three involved, and the audience will tend to side with either one or the other. But through the eyes of the child, in this case Linda, weíre presented with an outside point of view, and we see the love triangle developing, but what Linda helps you to do, is just observe the triangle develop and where and what is it ultimately going to end into. Thatís the main point of narrating; the story is basically not about Bill or Abby, or the farmer. Itís the story about Lindaís relationship with them, itís her story, and she tells it beautifully. Though the film may at times play with the audienceís due to itís pace, it is never boring, and still manages to deliver its message in full.
The performances were fantastic. Richard Gere and Sam Shepard were little-known actors at the time of this film, and were catapulted to stardom with this film, and their performances were great. Brooke Adams was also great in this film as well as out narrator Linda Manz. The rest of the supporting cast, though again they were in minor roles, was also up to standards.
I again applaud Terrence Malick for his effort and his vision turned a reality in this film. Unfortunately, once again, despite being nominated for four Academy Awards, he again wasnít recognized for his talent as much as he wanted to (he did get a screenplay nod from the WGA), and soon banished without a trace for 20 years. Hollywood owed this man a lot, and they finally paid him the respect he wanted when he released his latest and so far his best film to date: The Thin Red Line. I again, keep hoping that heíll do another film soon in the near future.In the end, this film is another masterpiece of modern cinema, since its defining of the use of camerawork in filmmaking, and also, one of the few examples of filmmaking as an art, which is shown sometimes in many other movies, but never in such a great splendor as this film depicted it. Hereís another recommendation for any student in filmmaking, rent this film, itís worth your time.
link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1684&reviewer=235
originally posted: 02/18/02 22:27:41