days of heaven

We want to believe that we are in control. A situation might come with all the earmarks of certain doom – perhaps stopping just short of a dude in a black robe and a scythe with a flock of crows. Still, so many of us feel as though we can look this sort of scenario in the face and say “I got this”.

We don’t. None of us do. As another film about thirty years later would say: “You can’t stop what’s coming”.

DAYS OF HEAVEN has that idea interlaced into it – that our problems can be outrun, or outsmarted. We sense it off the top as Bill escapes a sticky situation in Chicago and believes that he’ll be OK if he just packs his girl and her sister on to the train with him and finds a place to lay low. In an effort to stack the deck, they lie and hope their lie will help cover their tracks.

Unfortunately, the lie doesn’t work, and fate catches up with them anyway.

The forces of fate behind them remind me of this shot where the locust swarm begins to overrun The Farmer’s crop. They’ve been visible for most of the movie, often seen in smaller clusters. However, like Bill’s troubles they are always right there; always a threat, always capable of taking over whenever they are good and ready. So in this moment the trouble takes over, swirling around our hero like a cloud of ash. Soon he will try to fight them off. He’ll try to beat them from the bushes and smoke them out, but in this moment, all he can do is look on in awe. He’s never seen anything like this, and so very often that’s the case.

To complete the visual metaphor, the people around him who could possibly help are reduced to silhouettes…and the house in the distance that represented his safe harbour is beginning to fade from view. None of these harbingers will prevent Bill from continuing to run, hide, and fight of course, but if he was looking for a sign – it’s hard to get a clearer sign than a biblical plague.

We are not in control – Bill wasn’t, and neither are the rest of us. When consequence or fate wants to pull us to the centre of the floor and judge us it will, and it has ways of making sure we appear before the jury.

The neat twist of it all is that sometimes even inevitability can look so damned stunning on-screen.


Here’s three more from DAYS OF HEAVEN for the road…



This series of posts is inspired by the “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series at The Film Experience. Do check out all of the awesome entires in their series so far