Days of Heaven (1978)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Rural Drama, Period Film, Romantic Drama  |   Run Time - 94 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Terrence Malick's follow-up to his acclaimed 1973 debut Badlands confirmed his reputation as a visual poet and narrative iconoclast. Inspired by silent master F.W. Murnau's City Girl (1930), and shot by Nestor Almendros and Haskell Wexler in natural light primarily during the "magic hour" before sunset, Malick's spectacular imagery took the place of conventional exposition and excessive dialogue. The tragic love triangle between a migrant worker couple and a wealthy landowner must be pieced together through brief, cryptic incidents and child observer Linda's jaded, distant voice-over; the expressive sequences of nature's radiance and brutality allude to the emotions brewing beneath the adults' cool surfaces. Ennio Morricone's delicate, dreamy score further complemented the narrative restraint and sensory beauty. Hailed as a lushly visual masterpiece, even by viewers less taken with Malick's elliptical story-telling, Days of Heaven won a Cannes Film Festival prize and an Oscar for its cinematography, and received Oscar nominations for Score, Costumes, and Sound. Malick himself won Best Director awards from Cannes and the New York Film Critics' Circle. Despite its critical success, Days of Heaven failed to find an audience in 1978; Malick took a 20-year sabbatical from directing before making The Thin Red Line (1998).