BEHIND THE SCENES: How ‘Days of Heaven’ Was Filmed With a Visually Impaired Cinematographer
In Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, tension brews when a wealthy, dying farmer is deceived into marrying a young woman at the behest of her lover. It’s a film with little dialogue and subdued performances but one best remembered for its stunning cinematography.
The film is set in the rural wheat fields of 1916 Texas but was filmed in Alberta, Canada. Its spectral quality is imparted by natural lighting and softly washed colours, achieved by Malick and his director of photography Néstor Almendros, who developed a close partnership in the face of an often hostile crew.
It was, in fact, the goings-on of the Days of Heaven set that would establish Malick’s idiosyncratic filmmaking style, which preceded him in the 20 years between the 1978 film and his next, 1998’s The Thin Red Line. A number of factors contributed to this difficult shoot: conflict on set, disruptive union laws, and a discarded script. And, as the film’s lead, Richard Gere, revealed in an interview for the film’s Criterion release, Almendros had a worsening visual impairment.
Image credit: Paramount Pictures