Days of Heaven

Days of Heaven ★★★★★

Watching Days of Heaven again, this time on its Criterion-edition DVD, confirms that this is still my favorite Terrence Malick movie. I’ll admit that I like Malick when he was a traditional storyteller, like he was here and in Badlands. From a third rewatch the theme of childlike innocence, as demonstrated by Linda Manz’s perspective through her muted voiceover, seems to stand out more, as well as the metaphorical imagery surrounding religion. The film’s title is more apt because there are many visually stunning scenes that shows a sense of enlightenment amongst the workers.

What makes Days of Heaven more outstanding compared to his other work is how Malick plays reverse psychology to Richard Gere’s Bill, the supposed protagonist and Sam Shepard the farmer, the supposed antagonist. While Bill is angered at the people who restrict him or Brook Adams the opportunity to work, he loses his dignity so much than he had from the beginning. Shepard’s character on the other hand, earns more as his tragic backstory of his illness, lack of family gives his role as a upper class farmer more humility than I expected. It’s a clever reversal on the roles given that provides a less obvious similarity with Badlands, where the male characters in both films are macho and self-serving when you think about it. But where the former is a Bonnie and Clyde-esque thriller set in the perspective of his acquaintance, Days of Heaven is a more sophisticated and nuanced take on class conflict and the American dream from the perspective of a child.

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