America in the Popular Imagination


Twenty-one years ago, a spectacular film was made by an incredible director of the highly acclaimed film, "Badlands". The movie, "Days of Heaven" directed by Terrence Malick is a movie that shows the confusion of one woman, trying to figure out whom she loves. The movie stars Richard Gere as Bill and Sam Shepard as a rich, handsome, Texan farmer, the two men Brooke Adams as Abby falls in love with. Linda Manz plays Linda, Bill's sister and the narrator, in the story.

Terrence Malick was born in Waco, Texas, which probably influenced him to make his first two films, "Badlands" and "Days of Heaven". Both share a theme of pariahs in the mid American wilderness, who are on the run from the law.

The late seventies and early eighties were about getting ahead, however you could, no matter whom you had to step on, never worrying that you could get caught. This is reflected when Bill wants Abby to pretend that she is in love with the farmer. When Abby marries the farmer, Bill and Linda move in with them. Linda says "The rich got it all figured out". She means that when she was poor, she was considered replaceable and unimportant. When working in the fields, she says "If you don't work, they'll ship you right out of there; they don't need you; they can always find someone else." As a rich person, and a part of the upper class, she has fun with her life, and doesn't worry about what is going on.

"Days of Heaven" is about getting into a higher class. It starts when Bill punches his boss and needs to get a new job. He, his younger sister, Linda, and his lover, Abby, become sharecroppers on a farm in Texas, owned by a handsome young man. Bill and Abby pretend to be brother and sister, because they don't want people to know. Linda says "They told everyone they were brother and sister... You know how people are... you tell them something, they start talking". Bill is accused by a fellow sharecropper of being to close with his "sister" and they got into a fight because Bill was very defensive about that. Linda makes a friend with an older woman on the farm and they play in the fields. Bill overhears a doctor diagnose the handsome young farmer with a disease and one year to live. Bill, Abby, and Linda believe that "you're only on this earth once" so you should make it as worthwhile as possible. Since the farmer likes Abby, Bill coaxes Abby to pretend to be in love with the farmer. They get married and Bill and Linda move in with Abby and the farmer, to live the easy, upper class life. This ties in with the feelings of the "Me" era, where everyone was trying to get ahead, when you were able to. One day the farmer sees Abby and Bill kissing and he gets upset. Abby assures him that Bill is only her brother and while he believes her, suspicion arises. Abby soon falls in love with the farmer but is still in love with Bill. The farmer's foreman warns the farmer about Bill and Abby because he thinks they are con artists. The farmer fires the foreman because he doesn't want anyone saying that about the woman he loves. Bill leaves because of the suspicion. When he returns, there is a plague of locusts that eat all the crops. The farmer again catches Bill and Abby kissing, and gets very jealous. At night, when the people are trying to kill the locusts to preserve the crops, a fight breaks out between Bill and the farmer, and a lantern spills, setting the field on fire. The next day, the farmer gets a gun to kill Bill. Abby sees him and tries to stop him. He ties Abby up so that she can't warn Bill. Before the farmer can shoot Bill, Bill stabs the farmer with a dagger. Bill, Abby, and Linda are on the run from the law, because Bill murdered the farmer. The ex-foreman gets the police looking for Bill. Bill is in the woods and the police are chasing him. Then the police shoot him and he dies. Abby cries over his body. Abby then has to care for Linda, so she drops her