Days of heaven (1978, USA)

Days of Heaven was the most implicitly Biblical film I have seen in years. It opens with a scene where Richard Gere‘s character hits a manager at a noisy factory (so noise that we don’t even hear their conversation) who falls, hits his head and presumably dies. Then Gere flees with his girlfriend and sister. This whole setup is very Moses like. He doesn’t part the red sea, but he travels on the top of a freight train with others and the rails part the wheat fields in a similar manner.

Later he tells the people that his girlfriend is really his sister. Abraham was using the same trick when wanting to protect Sarah. Neither story ended well in terms of the efficiency of protection. We see plagues, including locust. The cinematography allowed us to experience it the way we never wanted. First you get one insect, then a few more. Then you get every one to smoke them out so t least some of the harvest could be saved. But the attempts are futile. The all-consuming fire seems like just a disaster that could provide closure, but that’s just the beginning.

Gere’s life end like Moses’ started. On the river amongst the reeds. But instead of being gently put in a basket to be taken to a better place, he is shot down like fugitive that he was.

The epic feeling was strengthened by a number of other factors. Ennio Morricone music faded in and out. About the third of the movie was nature shots and seeing the plants and animals from premier plan helped me to bring nature close in the sense that it became more obvious that humans are intruders in their territory. Most of the fields were idyllic as you’d thinking the Garden of Eden, or heaven itself might look like. The problem was always the people and the tension between them.

I found the perspective of the narration interesting too. By having it done through the younger sister, who should be considered a supporting character one has to question who is important here. It might have been her days of heaven, while the painful love triangle theme was the background story. The last scene, according to which her life just goes on after everyone from her first life left her, would certainly suggest so.

No matter, this is a beautiful, bucolic, biblical film.

DVD @ Amazon.com.

This is a top 1000 movie.

The film @ IMDB. (Summary from there: A hot-tempered farm laborer convinces the woman he loves to marry their rich but dying boss so that they can have a claim to his fortune.)

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