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March 15, 2004 | by  | in Film |
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(Classic Film Review) Days of Heaven

Directed by Terrence Malick
United States, 1978
Paramount (Wellington Film Society)

Terrence Malick is not a typical Hollywood director. He has only made three films since his stunning 1973 debut, Badlands. His other two films, Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line (1997) have had long gestation periods, and are similarly brilliant. He’s a true Hollywood maverick (he also turned down a Rhodes Scholarship), who has attracted equal numbers of detractors and celebrators. He has been accused of being self-indulgent with his films and his casting (John Travolta and George Clooney for example in the The Thin Red Line) and his films are slow, especially in Hollywood terms.

Days of Heaven tells the story of a love triangle in pre-World War I America. Bill (Richard Gere) and Abby (Brooke Adams) are lovers, but have to flee from Chicago after Bill kills a man. They work as labourers in Texas on the farm, whose owner (Sam Shepard) falls in love with Abby. However, at the farm Bill and Abby pretend that they are brother and sister, and Bill, after hearing that the farmer is destined to die within a year, suggests to Abby that she marry the farmer (for the money).

The film is not as melodramatic as the plot would suggest, instead it is more about loss. Unlike other movies with love triangles, all the characters are actually really sympathetic. They are simply caught up in fate, and are often shot with other objects and scenery dwarfing them. As a result, the humans are like insects that are insignificant when compared to the grand scheme of things (and this is confirmed by the ending of biblical proportions).

The entire film unfolds like a pastoral painting, and the timeless beauty of nature serves to highlight the pettiness of human beings and their struggles.

Now for the shameless plug. Days of Heaven is the first feature-length film that the Wellington Film Society is showing at 6.15pm on Monday 22 March at the Paramount. If you’re interested in film, the Film Society shows some excellent and rare films. Highly recommended, so head down.

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About the Author ()

Brannavan Gnanalingam has come a long way from being born in the teeming metropolis of Colombo, Sri Lanka. He may be known as feature writer for Salient, but is also the only man in history to have simultaneously donated both his kidneys. He is also an amateur rapper going under the moniker Brantank and hopes to win a Grammy.

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