46. “Days of Heaven”, Terrence Malick (1978)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list

Days of HEaven

Days of Heaven

dir. Terrence Malick scr. Terrence Malick cin. Nelson Almendros and Haskell Wexler with Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, and Linda Manz

In 100 words: This is possibly the most gorgeous movie I’ve ever seen: its painterly images capture a rustic America best preserved by famous works of art. The film’s narration adds weight to its simplistic story: Linda’s voiceover provides a wistful commentary that helps explain the logic of Malick’s editing and sensual visual rhythm— the quick cuts between people, actions, and then to nature and animals capture the feeling of recollecting memories. These superb images are matched by the gorgeous sounds by Morricone, which combined classical and modernist music that evoked the melancholy of the era. Frequent imitations serve to highlight its mastery.

Other Movies for Context: This movie is super iconic and Malick’s style, which he truly owned and formulated in this movie, has frequently been imitated but never truly and fully captured, even by Malick again. Badlands (1973), his debut movie, is closest to this film’s story, with a similar lovers on a run plot. But think of any “independent” movies after this, and most likely they’ll have some similarity to this. Personally, I think of Daughters of the Dust (1991), Julie Dash’s impeccably lyrical take on the Gulah people of South Carolina, David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013), which basically captures the spirit of the movie, but on a lesser note, and even American Honey (2016), which feels similarly attuned to its characters’ mental states as they roam around America.

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