Days of Heaven  on the big screen.
Ticket Information: $9.50 general admission at the door
courtesy of The Criterion Collection:
One-of-a-kind filmmaker-philosopher Terrence Malick has created some of the most visually arresting films of the twentieth century, and his glorious period tragedy Days of Heaven, featuring Oscar-winning cinematography by Nestor Almendros, stands out among them. In 1910, a Chicago steelworker (Richard Gere) accidentally kills his supervisor, and he, his girlfriend (Brooke Adams), and his little sister (Linda Manz) flee to the Texas panhandle, where they find work harvesting wheat in the fields of a stoic farmer (Sam Shepard). A love triangle, a swarm of locusts, a hellish fire—Malick captures it all with dreamlike authenticity, creating a timeless American idyll that is also a gritty evocation of turn-of-the-century labor.
“When people express what is most important to them, it often comes out in cliches. That doesn’t make them laughable; it’s something tender about them. As though in struggling to reach what’s most personal about them they could only come up with what’s most public.”
Courtesy of Biography.com:
Terrence Malick was born on November 20, 1943 in Ottawa, Illinois. After graduating from Harvard and studying abroad as a Rhodes Scholar, Malick enrolled at the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Studies. His debut film as director, Badlands, was critically acclaimed and established his reputation as a careful visual craftsmen whose work captured the splendor of nature. His other films include The Thin Red Line and The Tree of Life.
A brilliant yet somewhat mysterious filmmaker, Terrence Malick has received extensive praise for his innovative and imaginative movies, but he himself stays away from the media spotlight. Born in Ottawa, Illinois, on November 20, 1943, Malick grew up in Texas and Oklahoma. His father worked as an executive in the oil industry. As a young man, Malick was a bright student. He graduated from Harvard University in 1966 with a degree in philosophy. He went to continue his studies abroad as a Rhodes scholar, attending Magdalen College in Oxford, England.
Malick worked as a freelance journalist and as a philosophy professor before discovering his interest in film. In 1969, he enrolled at the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Studies in Los Angeles, California. Malick made his first film—a short entitled Landon Mills—as a student there.
To support himself while he studied his craft, Malick worked as a screenwriter. He reportedly worked on the script for 1971’s Drive, He Said, but his first major screenplay credit came the following year with Pocket Money. Malick wrote this western comedy, which was based on the J.P.S. Brown novel Jim Kane.
In 1973, Malick made an impressive debut as a feature film director and screenwriter with the crime drama Badlands. The critically acclaimed film, starring Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen, was based in part on the murders committed by Caril Ann Fugate and Charles Starkweather in the late 1950s. Audiences would have to wait five years for Malick’s next project Days of Heaven.
Days of Heaven stars Richard Gere, Brooke Adams and Sam Shepard. The trio’s characters are involved in a love triangle, and the film is largely set on a Texas farm in the early 20th century. With its rich and compelling visuals, it is no wonder that critic Roger Ebert described it as “one of the most beautiful films ever made.” Malick earned much praise for the film and even picked up a Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Unfortunately, movie audiences were less enthusiastic about Days of Heaven, and the film did poorly at the box office. Moving to France, Malick retreated from filmmaking for nearly two decades after this disappointment. He made an impressive return with the war drama The Thin Red Line in 1998. This adaptation of a James Jones novel featured Jim Caviezel, Sean Penn and Nick Nolte, and Malick used his trademark impressionistic style to tell this tale. For his work, he received two Academy Award nominations—one for his screenplay and the other for directing.
Malick went on to tackle early American history with 2005’s The New World, exploring the lives of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith. Starring Q’orianka Kilcher, Colin Farrell and Christian Bale, the film received warm reviews.
With 2011’s The Tree of Life, Malick delivered a fascinating cinematic experience. Much of the film centers on a Texas family in the 1950s. In the film, Brad Pitt plays the father and Jessica Chastain plays the mother; their characters have very different ideologies, and their son, Jack, is caught between these clashing and contradictory philosophies. This very human story is mixed with an exploration of larger themes. As Justin Chang described it in Variety, Tree of Life is “a transfixing odyssey through time and memory that melds a young boy’s 1950s upbringing with a magisterial rumination on the earth’s origins.” While some derided the project for being too pretentious or abstract, the movie won the Palme d’Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Malick also picked up his second Academy Award nomination for best director for the project.
Following Tree of Life, Malick began working on a number of new projects. His romantic drama To the Wonder with Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams debuted at several film festivals in 2012, receiving mixed reviews. Around the same time, he completed filming on another drama with Christian Bale and Natalie Portman, Knight of Cups. Additionally, tackling a more philosophical project, Malick worked with Brad Pitt and Emma Thompson on the film Voyage of Time.
Photo by Edie Baskin
LinksHere is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:
1/10/16 – Fandor supercut entitled “The Magic Hour” – link
1/12/16 – Terrence Malick has been experimenting with the voiceover since his first feature, Badlands. With Days of Heaven, he began to perfect it. Kevin B Lee & Scott Tobias at The Dissolve – link
1/14/16 – “Bresson’s ‘Notes on Cinematography’ will then prove to be the impetus that will cause Malick to scrap a dialogue-burdened version of Days of Heaven with dull performances and begin work on voiceover experiments with actress Linda Manz. Malick’s newfound Bressonian tutelage would allow him to focus on faces, bodies, and the world revealed between shots and sequences.” Reno Lauro, MUBI’s Notebook – link
1/15/16 – “I say this often when I write about Terrence Malick movies, but it bears repeating: Their chief value, I think, is in simply reminding us that our lives take place in the larger context of nature and the transcendent. And it isn’t just the gesture itself that’s important, but Malick’s ability to supply image after breathtaking image of humans communing with, and sometimes resisting, the natural world. There are shots in Days of Heaven so gorgeous that they put in a lump in my throat, and it made me appreciate how far Malick goes out onto the ledge with this and his subsequent efforts. These movies have to be that beautiful, or they would collapse.” Scott Tobias, The Dissolve – link
1/17/16 – “Malick is a true poet of the ephemeral: the epiphanies that structure his films, beginning with Days of Heaven, are ones that flare up suddenly and die away just as quickly, with the uttering of a single line (like “She loved the farmer”), the flight of a bird or the launching of a plane, the flickering of a candle or the passing of a wind over the grass. Nothing is ever insisted upon or lingered on in his films; that is why they reveal subtly different arrangements of event, mood, and meaning each time we see them.” Adrian Martin, The Criterion Collection – link
1/19/16 – Is Days of Heaven the most beautiful film ever made? “There is no answer to this just yet, but it assists a rich argument about where the cinema is going, and I think it all began on the gorgeous prairies of Days of Heaven.” David Thomson, The Guardian – link
1/20/16 – Matt Zoller Seitz’s insightful visual essay on Malick’s Days of Heaven, made in collaboration with the Moving Image Museum – link
1/20/16 – “While reactions to Days of Heaven were mixed, the film still had its champions, and even won the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival (It was also nominated for the Palme d’Or, but lost to both The Tin Drum and Apocalypse Now, which were both worthy films of the title). You’d expect a director who still had a unanimously agreed-upon masterpiece and a more divisive but still fairly well-regarded art-film under his belt to make more movies after that. But that didn’t happen.” Christopher Runyon, Movie Mezzanine – link
1/21/16 – What would have happened to Terrence Malick’s career had John Travolta actually played the lead in Days of Heaven? – link
1/22/16 – “As much as I love watching Days of Heaven, I dread having to write about it. The experience of seeing Terrence Malick’s masterpiece invariably leaves me awestruck and overwhelmed, and gushing is not criticism. So much has been written about Malick and his movies, much of it effusive and insightful, that anything else one has to say seems little more than an affirmative echo. It’s always a shock to discover that Days of Heaven runs a mere 94 minutes; its scale is so impossibly vast, its perspective so breathtakingly cosmic, that wrapping your arms around it seems a fool’s errand. But if Malick’s movie tells us anything, it’s to be humble in the face of the monumental.” Elbert Ventura, Museum of the Moving Image’s “Reverse Shot” – link
1/24/16 – The Buffalo News‘ Jeff Simon on Days of Heaven via Facebook: “Days of Heaven” is one of the great films of the past 50 years and should only be seen on a large screen. – link