Days of Heaven

Days of Heaven ★★★★★

“Nobody’s perfect. There was never a perfect person around. You just have half-angel and half-devil in you”

After regaling us with the exploits of a cold-blooded murderer, Malick’s second film opens up with a completely different kind of killing. When Bill (Richard Gere) gets into an argument, which the audience can’t quite make out amid the sounds of a steel mill, he accidentally lands a blow that kills his foreman. Bill rushes home, grabs his girlfriend and his baby sister and hops aboard a train bound for Texas.

The bulk of DAYS OF HEAVEN takes place on a farm in Texas, where Bill and his little family struggle to survive while working the fields. Malick treats the flatlands of the state that he would make his home like a canvas, painting beautiful images (often postponing shoots to wait for the perfect light); but using this idyllic place as the setting for domestic and historical drama and as a plane through which it seems the filmmaker is speaking to God.

Once again, Malick assigns the role of narrator to a young girl who manages to be more of a witness than a participant in the film’s story. Like Holly in Badlands, Linda (Linda Manz) is whisked away by an older man, on the run from the law and thrown into the midst of a great adventure. While Holly’s story was filled with adventure and danger, the life Linda leads in Texas is much calmer than the one she became accustomed to in Chicago. Bill isn’t the smartest of protagonists, and his constant manipulation and double-crossing ultimately lead to death, pestilence and destruction.

While Badlands explored the consequences of violence and loss of humanity, Days of Heaven explores the relationship and affect one’s actions have on the world around him, and the responsibility he has to God, to the earth and his fellow man.

Paradise Lost: The Films of Terrence Malick

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