America in the Popular Imagination

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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 off at an orphanage. Linda's old friend from the farm picks her up and they go off into the night. This movie doesn't really have a definitive ending. It leaves you wondering... "Now, what?" This movie can be compare with the movie "The Graduate". Like in "Days of Heaven" when Linda and her friend ran off into the night, in "The Graduate", a woman named Elaine Robinson is about to marry a man, when the man she really loves shows up and they run away on a bus. "Now, what?" is what many people ask. This is a strange but somewhat common style of ending a movie. It leaves the audience to imagine what happens afterward. "Days of Heaven" showed that it was tough to be a woman during that time. Her lover pushed her into marrying the rich farmer because that was the easy way out. By marrying him, Bill, Linda, and she, could live an easy life. Many women throughout time have been forced to do things that they didn't want to do because they lived in a male dominated society. In the seventies, many women's groups spoke out frequently. The movie "Days of Heaven" is not an accurate depiction of America. America is sometimes called the "melting pot". This refers to the diversity of our country. A melting pot takes different things and melts them down as one. America is made up of many different cultures, which together form our great country. This movie only shows white people in the upper and lower classes. There aren't any African Americans, Asians, Hispanic, or other races. Also, there are no middle class people. You were either poor and trying to get rich, or rich and could take it easy. This film leaves out much of the American population, only showing a small portion. Documented Sources Days of Heaven. Dir. Terrence Malick. With Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, and Sam Shepard, Paramount Pictures, 1978. The Graduate. Dir. Mike Nichols. With Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, and Katherine Ross. Polygram Video,1967. Colored Reflections (1997): n. pag. 20 February 1999. Film Vault (1995-99): n. pag. 20 February 1999. Internet Movie Database. (1990-99): n. pag. 20 February 1999.

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