When I saw Days of Heaven was playing for one show only I had to get along and see it, for two reasons: 1. It was the only Malick film I hadn’t seen and 2. To wash the bad taste out of my mouth left by To The Wonder.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time discussing it – there are a lot of other films out, whereas this was a one-off, and to be honest, I’m not sure how to go about discussing it. It tells the story of two lovers, Bill & Abby (Richard Gere and Brooke Adams), who go on the run from Chicago after Gere kills a man. Calling themselves brother and sister, and with They take the train south to Texas where they take up work on a farm during harvest. There, the farmer (Sam Shepherd) takes a shine to Abby. Bill, having heard grave news about the farmer’s health, hatches a plan with Abby for her to marry the farmer so the pair can lay claim to his fortune, but things don’t turn out as planned.
This was back when Malick did plots as well as photographed the beauty of the world, and the piece hangs together so much better than either Tree of Life or To The Wonder. It features a narrator, as all of Malick’s films do, in the form of Linda, Bill’s young sister who travels with the couple. She brings information to the story rather than just musing on life, the universe and everything, and is a welcome addition.
The film’s most arresting sequence comes when a plague of locusts is set upon the farm and a fire is sweeps across the fields. A combination of Malick’s fascination with nature and the beauty and power of the terrifying flames is unlike anything else I’ve seen on screen. The fires looks genuinely out of control and I was fearing for the safety of cast and crew as overawed by the spectacle.