It all began when I watched the “The Tree of Life” trailer in the theatre. I was mesmerized. A few seconds into the trailer I decided it would be a must-see for me. Then later it won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival on May 22. I’m now catching up on Terrence Malick’s previous works before “The Tree of Life” screens here in our city in a few weeks time.
The reclusive auteur Terrence Malick has only made five feature films in his directing career which spans four decades: Badlands (1973), Days of Heaven (1978, Won Oscar for Best Cinematography), The Thin Red Line (1998, seven Oscar noms), The New World (2005), and The Tree of Life (2011, Won Palme d’Or at Cannes, so far). His academic background in philosophy at Harvard and later as a Rhode Scholar at Oxford has found its expressions in his cinematic creation.
“Days of Heaven” in the Criterion Collection is a fantastic restoration and transfer. I watched it on the DVD. I suppose the Blu-ray would be even more spectacular. Some call “Days of Heaven” one of the most beautiful films ever made. Well, I haven’t seen all movies ever made to say that, nevertheless, of all that I have seen, such a statement is certainly not an exaggeration. Using mostly natural light, every shot is cinematic poetry. Enthralling scene sequences joined together to produce a piece of artwork that speaks the quiet, and sometimes silent, language of visual eloquence.
Written and directed by Malick, the film is nostalgically set in the 1910’s. The story is about Bill (Richard Gere), a hot-tempered steel mill worker in Chicago, who has to flee after an altercation leaving a man dead. He and his lover Abby (Brook Adams), and his younger sister Linda (Linda Manz) run away together and end up working in the harvest on a Texas farm. Pretending to be Bill’s sister, Abby is soon courted by the farmer (Sam Shepard). Overhearing that the farmer has only a year to live due to an illness, Bill persuaded Abby to marry the farmer so they can inherit his properties after his death. Every choice has its consequence. The plot unfolds in intriguing ways. Biblical parallels are deftly embedded in the scenes, Abraham and Sarah, the plague of locusts, Linda’s voice over allusion to the apocalypse… not just offering stunning images but thought-provoking as well.
And I must mention, I have a connection to the movie. It was shot right here in southern Alberta, and some scenes right here in Calgary, in Heritage Park to be exact. No, I wasn’t an extra. But proud that this regarded by some as one of the most beautiful films was shot entirely on location here in this province. It is the magnificent expanse of Alberta’s wheat fields and not Texas that we see in the film. The reason: from the commentary, I learn that the wheats were four feet tall in Alberta while those in Texas were only two feet.
Here are some stills from “Days of Heaven” for you to savor:
CLICK HERE to read my review of The Tree of Life (2011) by Terrence Malick.
CLICK HERE to my post “A Sequel to Days of Heaven, Mr. Malick?”
Photo Source: Screenmusings.org, permission to use for blogs.