BLINDSPOT: Days of Heaven (1978)

Read Time:2 Minute, 38 Second

Nobody’s perfect. There was never a perfect person around. You just have half-angel and half-devil in you,” said Linda in monologue.

Apparently, Days of Heaven is the movie that triggered Terrence Malick’s 20-year hiatus back in the 70s and 80s—before he returned with The Thin Red Line that became one of the finest war movies I ever seen. Some people says: it’s the milestone from Malick, perhaps, from this feature the influences for The Tree of Life or To The Wonder rooted.

If poems are filmed, perhaps Malick’s filmography is the result; I’ve seen The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life and To The Wonder, and they all worked the same: all the dazzling visuals and majestic nuance pictured in a series of motion picture; some are linked by some beautiful, hypnotizing voice-over and some are having into-the-deep narration. Days of Heaven, as Malick’s sophomore, goes to the ‘make’ side of ‘make you or break you’ constraint of sophomore project. I like the idea of how a third party narrates the story through a voice-over over the Texas panhandle’s love triangle—between Richard Gere’s Bill and Brooke Adams’ Abby to trick a rich farmer portrayed by Sam Shepard—that goes Bonnie-and-Clyde with shades of Malick’s Badlands. The narration isn’t too personal and, sometimes, has no relation to the whole plot, but it has the steer to link every pieces of beauty scattered from Malick’s vision.

Upon everything, the most majestic feature is the juxtaposition of the visuals and the characters. The visuals have gone so prestigious and, seemingly, pretentious in exploring the magic-hour shot that eventually works very well in enhancing emotions and nuance. The mesmerizing pictures are ‘reluctantly’ progressive, engulfing significant dialogues between characters in projecting the character’s depth. The good thing, the visual beauty is only a vehicle to a more complicated pure narrative with less symbolism and imagery.

What I like most from Days of Heaven:

  • The real picture of literal days of heaven delved in the visual beauty—shot mostly during the magic hour to result in mesmerizing and majestic violet.
  • The progressive shot of human behaviors and nature—resulting in beauty: the root of Malick’s aesthetic shots in his modern masterpiece.
  • The use of third-party narrators—making it less personal but effective in linking the series of beauty and the event.
  • It’s plot-driven—more plot-driven than Malick’s modern work.
  • How the film managed to hire 3 different cinematographers, but resulting in a whole beauty (that won Oscars)

What I do not like:

  • There are some sub-plot left undeveloped.
  • The ending—so unfair, so filthy, so unsympathetic.
  • Sometimes it feels like ‘style over substance’ but in Malick’s work, sometimes is often.


Days of Heaven is a majestic beauty composed by juxtaposing magic-hour visual beauty and complicated love-triangle plot. Although, it triggered Terrence Malick’s 20-year hiatus, it’s worth it to save the maestro’s elusive touch.

Days of Heaven (1978)

Drama, Romance Written & Directed by: Terrence Malick Starred by: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, Linda Manz Running Time: 94 mins PG


6 responses

  1. Irene McKenna Avatar
    Irene McKenna

    I loved this movie — so artistically pleasing and shot in natural light. I agree, however, about the feeling of style over substance. Excellent review!

    1. Glad you like it! That’s the highlight—the magic hour light

  2. Great review Paskalis! I remember seeing this not too long ago and I was enthralled by the gorgeous visuals. Malick’s not a strong filmmaker in terms of story but I think this was one of his more um, digestible ones.

    1. I agree with ‘digestable ones’ compared to his latest work that has gone too far in narrative.

  3. Linda Manz was a cinematic miracle. Her voiceover drives the entire movie, and yet it turns out that it was unscripted. Malick simply replayed the movie and recorded her explaining what was going on in a variety of scenes.
    36 years on Days of Heaven’s visual resplendence and epic texture still reigns supreme.

    1. The visual is undoubtedly reigns, I can’t agree more.
      I don’t know it was unscripted, all I know is it’s the last attempt Malick did to pull all the pieces together. Sadly, I’ve never seen anything quite like this from Linda Manz. Could have been someone significant…

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