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The 2010 Glen Workshop In Santa Fe, NM

Days of Heaven
Movie Poster for Carl Theodor Dreyer's Ordet
Directed by Terrence Malick
Produced by Bert Schneider
Harold Schneider
Written by Terrence Malick
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography by Néstor Almendros
Editing by Billy Weber
Release Date 1974
Running Time
94 min.
Language English, Italian
More Information

Days of Heaven

Terrence Malick’s 1978 story of adultery on the Texas Panhandle is set just before World War 1, but it resounds with echoes of Old Testament drama. Blast-furnace worker Bill (Richard Gere) gets in a fight with his foreman, then goes on the run with his girlfriend Abby (Brooke Adams) and little sister Linda.

They settle as field workers for a rich farmer (Sam Shepard), who eventually falls for the irresistibly beautiful Abby. Bill sees this as an opportunity to get rich not-so-quick. And his plot is the first step toward violence, which blazes up in a conflagration that may be the greatest inferno ever filmed.

Captured indelibly by cinematographers Nestor Almendros and Haskell Wexler, Malick’s film has a visual syntax so eloquent and graceful—its fields of gold cause its quiet characters to stand out like mythic figures—it would play powerfully as a silent film. (Shots of a hand extended to brush across the wheat fields have inspired numerous imitators, including Gladiator’s Ridley Scott.)

But the poetic narration by young Linda is endearing, and it keeps the goings-on from becoming too ponderous. After making this meditative masterpiece, Malick abandoned filmmaking for thirty years, only to return with greater ambition, and similarly spellbinding cinema.

—Jeffrey Overstreet

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