Tuesday, November 24, 2009

#419: Days of Heaven (1978)

Director: Terrence Malick
Cast: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard & Linda Manz

To get away from the cops after accidentally murdering his boss at the steel mill, Bill hops on a train with his lover, Abby, and his kid sister, Linda. They travel across the country from Chicago to Texas, where they find jobs in the field of a large farm. To avoid rumors that could lead to Bill's history, he claims that Abby is his sister. When Bill overhears the rich farm owner speaking with his doctor, he discovers that the farmer will die within a year from a disease. Bill convinces Abby to marry the farmer so they can have a share of his fortune in the near future. Things get out of hand, however, when Abby begins to fall in love with the farmer... and the farmer's health doesn't seem to be deteriorating.

The cinematography is incredible in this film. Every shot could belong in a magazine, and it's hard to take your eyes off the screen. If only the same thing were true for your ears.

Ennio Morricone was praised for this score. I don't really think it's deserved - though it's possible its because of being a music student alum. The film starts with Aquarium from Saint-Sæns' Carnival of the Animals. Throughout the film, the music alternates between this and Morricone's score of variations on the Saint-Sæns. With so much iconic American scenery featured throughout the film, I found it inappropriate to use so much music from France, and even worse, such a well-known piece of music. There doesn't seem to be any meaning behind its use to justify the choice, so I don't understand why Morricone didn't write his own themes, or at least chose a theme a little less recognizable.

Also, the narration made me cringe. The film is narrated by Linda, the kid sister. Her voice is tainted with a cringe-worthy Chicagoan accent. Not only did I not want to be told a story by an obnoxious sounding 12-year-old, but I couldn't even understand a whole lot of what she was blabbering about. The fact that her narration has been praised, calling her role 'haunting', completely mystifies me.

Not particularly impressed. Aside from the photography.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):
  • After filming for a short time, Terrence Malick threw out the script altogether and filmed for a close to a year allowing the actors to "find the story" for the film as they went along.
  • The shot of locusts ascending to the sky was shot in reverse with the helicopter crew throwing peanut shells down, and actors walking backwards.
  • Cinematographer Haskell Wexler, who got an "additional photography" credit in the film, complained to Roger Ebert that more than half of the footage was shot by him.

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