Days of Heaven

Days of Heaven ★★★★★

This movie has no right to exist on this planet. "Days of Heaven" is a film so gorgeous, it should only exist in an alternate dimension where there are things so beautiful that this would seem mundane by comparison. It's so painfully, achingly beautiful, I'd have to make up an entirely new word in order to capture the magnitude of its pulchritude. And I shall do so right now.

Laurifulent.

A cross between Laura, the name of Petrarch's idealized beloved; mellifluous, which means flowing sweetly as though with honey; and magnificent, which is pretty self-explanatory -- that is what it means to be laurifulent. That is "Days of Heaven."

"Days of Heaven" is, as I see it, a film about desire -- about yearning for the things we lack. The poor family that desires wealth and the wealthy individual that desires a family. And befitting a film about desire, everything is drenched in gold. It's the way we play up our desires, the way we make them out to be something they're not, the way we ignore their glaring faults, and the ways we take the things we have for granted. It is the American Dream, endlessly chasing after an abstraction that we can only grasp for an instant before it, like all things, fades. It is the artifice of Heaven itself -- to think that such perfection could ever be achieved on such a flawed, faulty Earth. As Yeats would say, the center cannot hold, and things fall apart. And so the film, in its climax, takes on apocalyptic proportions as these heavenly hopes and dreams come crashing down.

It's a heart-rending tragedy from start to finish, immaculately lensed by Nestor Almendros and Haskell Wexler and gorgeously scored by the incomparable Ennio Morricone. It's the film that elevated Malick from a promising young talent to an American legend. It is, if you'll pardon my pun, a heavenly film -- and one of the very finest I have ever seen.

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