Days of Heaven

Days of Heaven ★★★★½

Terrence Malick #2

If a person believes that "Days of Heaven" has only one aspect that is worth discussing, that won't be Malick's screenplay or Richard Gere's performance. Neither shall it be the score of the virtuoso composer, Ennio Morricone. It will be Nestor Almendros' cinematography that gives a painterly, elegiac nature to the film. Those silhouetted figures of peasants, against the golden backdrop of the setting sun, evokes a mood, that no other cinematographer has been able to conjure till date. The grainy texture along with fill shots of locusts, pheasants and animals unclutter the tangled web of emotions in the fields of the idyllic 'West'.

Malick's sophomore effort is an observation of the turn of the century labour in America through another, estranged and 'murderous' couple. It draws a lot from his previous work, Badlands in creating that void, a sense of loneliness amid the dull cacophony of human existence. But in retrospect, it fleets away from the semi-urban backdrop to a more bucolic time and space- congenial to Malick's character.

The production of "Days of Heaven" has been one of the most troublesome ever, with half the crew resigning midway due to Malick's penchant for spontaneity, as opposed to Hollywood's more rigorous scheduling. Production designer, Jack Fisk recalls designing and building the mansion from scratch, including picking different colours for different rooms and interior props. Costume designer, Patricia Norris researched dresses from that period and brought in old outfits and textiles for authenticity.

For that matter, one might call Malick obsessive. I would say it is both passion and obsession sewn together that spirals down to such intricate detailing. Malick perhaps remains the only filmmaker, who dropped out of the clamour leaving no trace behind, relinquishing all the fame and glory that could have been his. It is at the same time, utterly bizarre and fascinating to what propelled such a decision. Or perhaps, with greater scrutiny into "Days of Heaven", we shall find the logic or reasoning behind it, or maybe, it was purely born out of instinct, as depicted by his characters.


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