zach’s review published on Letterboxd:
Days of Heaven is a beautiful, haunting, mystical experience of time where nature and humanity seem at odds, and people didn't really know quite how to fit into the clash. It overflows with interpretive meaning: the Kuleshov effect works to create a purposefully symbolically, rich story; the dialogue and excellent narration ask a lot of the audience's attention and care for interpretation both the literal story and the symbolic narrative; the characters all become extensions of the symbolism, while retain their own rooting in reality; the vagueness of setting and context only enhance these other elements, allowing the audience to think about themes instead of hyper-focusing on content. I dare say this film is perfect symbolically; all of the elements of the metaphorical story fit together seamlessly while I was watching, telling an epic of humanity's assault on nature. While it definitely took me a while to settle into the interpretive nature of this film, I definitely found my footing, and feel as if the director does an excellent job of leading the audience to the more symbolic interpretations of his work.
Yet, the symbolism is not even the most important aspect of the film. Days of Heaven grabs the audiences attention first with it's incredible cinematography and attention to detail. The light is so well captured; the scale of the sets and number of extras makes the film feel epic and exciting. We are able to interpret anything form this film, because we want to: we want to sit with it, because it is beautiful, and that beauty is not squandered just to entertain.
I do love this movie, and I am excited to dive in for more meaning later in life. But I did have some slight problems with the construction of the plot. I do think that there is something genius at work in how everything feels so singular and intensional: the themes feel so effortlessly at home within story that the film tells; all of the character aid in telling a story about the themes, not just telling a literal story. However, the literal story feels like it kinda falls apart by the end. I felt three places where the film could have ended, but it just kept going. Then the actual end felt slightly anti-climactic. It did wrap up, and it did feel right for the story. But, the ending(s) was not my favorite part of the film, feeling like it sacrificed some of the flawless connection between the symbolic and literal narratives to get to where it ended. Yet, the rest is so damn good, so beautiful and interesting, that I really can't fault it all that much. I will definitely be back to this one.