Days of Heaven [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1978]

Days of Heaven was only the second feature film from writer and director Terrence Malick, but the grace and assurance of its visual storytelling suggested the work of an old master, and though the picture wasn't a major box office success, it's remembered by those who saw it as one of the most remarkable and evocative works to come out of the new American cinema of the Seventies, a movie that didn't challenge the canon of traditional filmmaking so much as it embraced classicism while casting it in a new and expressive light. The striking visual beauty of Days of Heaven hasn't always been well served on home video -- if there was ever was a film that deserved to be seen on the big screen, this is it -- but the DVD edition from the Criterion Collection does a far better job of preserving the gorgeous play of shadow and light in Nestor Almendros's cinematography than any previous release of the movie. Days of Heaven has been given a widescreen transfer to disc in Malick's preferred aspect ratio of 1.78:1, letterboxed on conventional televisions and enhanced for anamorphic playback on 16x9 monitors; the transfer was supervised and approved by Malick, camera operator John Bailey and editor Billy Weber (Almendros passed on in 1992), and the results are little short of magical. Which much has been made of Days of Heaven's sparse dialogue, Malick's use of the sound track is bright and imaginative in its mingling of natural sounds, music and Linda Manz's narration, and the new 5.1 sound track created for the Criterion DVD (based in part on the four-track mix created for the picture's 70mm engagements) is every bit as impressive as the picture. The dialogue in the film is in English, with optional English subtitles but no multiple language options included. The disc includes an assortment of bonus features, most notably a commentary track in which Bailey, art director Jack Fisk, costume designer Patricia Norris and casting director Dianne Crittenden talk at length about the challenges of bringing Malick's vision to the screen. The disc also includes interviews with cast members Richard Gere and Sam Shepard, both fresh to the screen when they made the movie, about their roles in the production, and John Bailey and Haskell Wexler (the latter of whom took over for Almendros for several weeks when he left the project due to prior commitments) discuss creating the picture's remarkable look. Finally, the accompanying booklet includes a thoughtful essay on Days of Heaven from critic Adrian Martin and a seventeen-page excerpt from Almendros's autobiography A Man With A Camera about his work on the movie. Nearly everyone who discusses Days of Heaven in this package mentions Malick's difficulty in expressing his ideas in words, and its significant that he doesn't appear on the commentary track or in an interview here, but when watching this disc his gifts as a filmmaker are remarkably clear, and Criterion's release of Days of Heaven is a loving tribute to a singular film by a singular artist.
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Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital trasfer, supervised and approved by director Terrence Malick, editor Billy Weber, and camera operator John Bailey
  • New dolby digital 5.1 soundtrack
  • Audio commentary featuring Weber, art director Jack Fisk, costume designer Patricia Norris, and casting director Dianne Crittenden
  • New audio interview with Richard Gere
  • New video interviews with cinematographers Haskell Wexler and Bailey, and a video interview with Sam Shepard from 2002
  • Plus: a booklet featuring an essay by critic Adrian Martin and a chapter from director of photography Nestor Almendro's autobiography


Days of Heaven
Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven, the long-awaited follow-up to his 1973 debut Badlands, confirmed his reputation as a visual poet and narrative iconoclast with a story of love and murder told through the jaded voice of a child and expressive images of nature. In 1916, Chicago steelworker Bill (Richard Gere, stepping in for John Travolta) flees to Texas with his little sister Linda (Linda Manz) and girlfriend Abby (Brooke Adams) after fatally erupting at his boss. Along with other itinerant laborers, they work the harvest at a wealthy, ailing farmer's ranch, but the farmer (playwright Sam Shepard) falls in love with Abby, and, believing her to be Bill's sister, asks the three to stay on at his elysian spread. Seeing it as his one real chance to escape perpetual poverty, Bill urges Abby to marry the sick man. Marriage, however, has more restorative powers, and the farmer has more magnetism, than Bill had planned. "Nobody's perfect," Linda impassively observes in one of her many voiceovers, after their brief paradise is erased by plagues of locusts, fire, and lethal jealousy. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Richard Gere
    Richard Gere - Bill
  • Brooke Adams
    Brooke Adams - Abby
  • Sam Shepard
    Sam Shepard - The Farmer
  • Linda Manz
    Linda Manz - Linda
  • Robert J. Wilke
    Robert J. Wilke - Farm Foreman

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4 Reviews
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