So as I knock two off my movie watching list, "Days of Heaven" (1978) & "The Great Escape" (1963), I thought I'd post some thoughts about the former along with some pictures.
I know after Tree of Life that Terrence Malick has become a whipping boy for pretentious indie film, but he's one of the few film-makers that relies entirely on visuals/audio to tell his story.
There are no bloated scenes of exposition or characters endlessly explaining their background, but rather, we're taken to an extremely specific, tactile world and drop into the lives of the characters. As we see Gere's character run as fast he can away from the steel mill, Malick informs us with his frame. There's something incredibly romantic in Bill and Abby's love in this stark western frontier atmosphere.
I also love that Malick adds a third character that is voiceless through most of the film to the characters, yet we hear her inner-thoughts and reflections on what is going on. Look at some of the screen caps that I've posted below and you immediately can tell that this doesn't feel like the Westerns that were created on Hollywood sound stages in the 40s and 50s. I even love the character of the actors faces in this harsh, yet magical world. I love how a traveling flying circus can drop into the middle of the narrative and we don't need to learn anything about them, other than the images they present.
Lastly, I love the ending images of the film and how this it captures that this was a distinct moment in each of these characters lives. Days of Heaven is a complete triumph and much watch by anyone.