Days of Heaven is a dramatically moving and technically breathtaking American art film, one of the great cinematic achievements of the 1970s. Told through the eyes and words of an innocent but wise teenage migrant worker (Linda Manz), it traces a trio of nomads as their lives intersect with a wealthy wheat farmer.
The story opens in Chicago with Richard Gere shoveling coal in a steel mill. After an altercation with a foreman he’s fired. He, his sister (Manz) and girlfriend (Brooke Adams), hit the road to find work in the fields, traveling as brother and sisters.
‘they find employment on a farm owned by a young, wealthy Sam Shepard. Like the other performances Shepard’s is quiet – this isn’t from the tour de force school – but it is a marvel nonetheless.
The trio become entangled with Shepard when he falls in love with Adams and marries her. Suddenly the threesome – once so poor they travelled in freight cars like cattle – are rich. And it seems that the days of heaven have arrived. But with wealth, they learn, also comes idleness. And with idleness boredom.
Told in 95 minutes, it is an efficient, meaningful story filled with some offbeat touches, literary references and beautifully developed characters.
1978: Best Cinematography.
Nominations: Best Costume Design, Original Score, Sound