Best of… Series – 1978 – Days of Heaven
As a way to mix some of my old reviews in with my new reviews, I’m doing a Best of… Series. In this series, I will review my favorite movie of each year.
Days of Heaven is the earliest (non-silent) exercise in truly sublime cinema I’ve seen. Malick’s creation is so beautiful, it’s like watching the sun set for 90 minutes straight – literally. Shot almost entirely during the ‘magic hour’, the yellows and oranges of the sunset-soaked land combined with the dark blues and blacks of dusk give the farmland setting (which is beautiful in and of itself) even fuller texture. Consequently, when you add the narrative voiceover and the soft, scarce, and subtle dialogue, the film’s tone is fascinatingly ethereal.
Another of my other favorite aspects of this film is its religious symbolism. The protagonist’s story is very similar to the Old Testament story of Abram and Sarai’s trip to Egypt. In each story, the man asks his female partner to pose as his sister which leads an innocent outsider to have eyes for this woman without knowledge of the truth. In both cases it leads to plague and destruction. While the film’s protagonist is not presented as a man of God, there’s no doubt his inability to trust is the cause of much pain, and in this way he is no different than Abram. Malick does a great job bringing this story to life in a way that feels both biblically rich and modernly relatable. 10/10