The Story (continued)
Days of Heaven (1978)
During their brief honeymoon trip (to Yellowstone?), Abby carries a parasol and marvels at a waterfall. The farmer photographs a large pair of antlers on the ground with a box camera. Abby asks: "You've never been in love before? Why's that?" While they are gone, Linda and Bill cavort in the river water:
(Linda's voice-over) I never been this rich, all right? I mean, we were just, we all of a sudden were livin' like kings, just nothin' to do all day but crack jokes, lay around. We didn't have to work. I'm tellin' ya, the rich got it figured out.
During a meal served in a gazebo prominently stuck in the middle of the flat prairie, Linda and Bill play as if she were his ventriloquist's dummy. The farmer juggles potatoes to entertain, and Linda and Bill have a food fight. Their non-bourgeois behavior embarrasses Abby. The foursome play golf on the infinite fairway of the fields.
(Linda's voice-over) I got to like this farm. Do anything I want. Roll in the fields, talk to the wheat patches. When I was sleepin', they'd talk to me. They'd go in my dreams.
Bill's quick kiss of the back of Abby's neck doesn't go un-noticed by the farmer. In the middle of the night, Bill cracks open the door to Abby's bedroom, awakens her in the light of the moon, and runs outside with her, where he explains his dangerous compulsion to see her: "I get lonely by myself." The scarecrow watches them as they run through the field and Abby's white nightgown billows behind her. A yelping coyote runs toward a hilltop and then chases back down. They wade in the river water and drink wine. Abby is nervous about their dangerous flirtation during the midnight tryst: "It scares me doing this, you know?" Bill drops his wine glass in the clear water (shown later in closeup with fish swimming by):
Bill: I never wanted to fall in love with you.
Abby: Nobody asked you to.
Bill: A minute ago, you said I was irresistible. I still am.
Abby: Your hair's still the same.
They stretch out on the ground and kiss, and fall asleep together. Dawn breaks, and they hurriedly rush back to the house, where Abby finds the farmer on the back porch (without noticing Bill). She explains that she couldn't sleep and went out for a walk. Linda turns the pages of a picture book - viewing a Bengal tiger, oxen, an elephant with a broken tusk, and a den of rattlesnakes. Stomach pains cause the farmer to roll on his bed. Linda flies a kite in the prairie wind. Bill spends more and more time with Abby. He walks through a clothesline and sights Abby's stockings:
(Linda's voice-over) Nobody sent us letters. We didn't receive no cards. Sometimes I feel very old, like my whole life's over. Like I'm not around no more.
The farmer speaks to his skeptical, suspicious weather-beaten-faced foreman about the unhealthy-looking 'brother and sister act':
Farmer: You don't like them, do you? You never have.
Foreman: I don't think they're honest people. As a matter of fact, I think they're a pair of con artists.
Farmer: You know, maybe you'd be better off taking over the North end 'till spring. I mean, we've been together a long time, and I've always felt close to you. Just that it might work out better is all, less friction. You're talkin' about my wife.
Foreman: Maybe I'd better pack.
Unfooled, the grizzled-faced foreman drives by Bill at the well as he departs: "I know what you're doing. That boy's like a son to me." In their bedroom, the gently-adoring farmer explains how he has been enlivened and strengthened by Abby's beauty and healing presence. Moved by his declaration of a new lease on life, she feels genuine affection toward him:
Farmer: You know what I thought when I first saw you? I thought, 'If only I could touch her, that everything would be all right.' You make me feel like I've come back to life. Isn't that funny? I always thought that bein' alone was just something that a man had to put up with. You just got used to it. Sometimes, it's like you're right inside of me, you know, like I can hear your voice and feel your breath and everything. Why are you so uneasy with me?
Abby: I'm sorry.
Farmer: I don't blame you. Did I make it sound like that?
Abby: You have a right to.
Farmer: Just that it seems like I don't know you.
The wind blows streaks of ripples across the water's surface. The Amarillo Dispatch newspaper of October 7, 1916 reports, "PRESIDENT WILSON VISITS PANHANDLE, Whistlestop Tour Continues." The front page of the newspaper dissolves into a view of the one-car Presidential train that quickly passes nearby the farm, and the foursome, dressed in their Sunday best, wave. The farmer chivalrously helps Abby back into the buggy:
(Linda's voice-over) Instead of getting sicker, he just stayed the same. He didn't get sicker. He didn't get better. They were kind-hearted. They thought he was goin' out on his own steam. I don't know, the Doc must have come over or someone gave him somethin'. Probably some kind of medicine or somethin'. I could have just took it, put it in a ditch, like they do to a horse. They shoot 'em right away.
With shotguns, a Shetland pony and a pair of pointing/retrieving hunting dogs, Bill and the farmer go on a bird-hunting expedition to shoot quail and pheasants in the uplands grasslands. With their tails level and pointing toward targets, the rigid dogs catch the scent and sight of two pheasants frozen in fear. At the last moment, Bill - who wants to kill the farmer and make it look like a hunting accident - points his gun at the farmer's exposed back, but then he doesn't have the heart. He diverts his gun and shoots into the ground. While they sit on stools and pluck and skin the birds near the house, the farmer asks Bill why he was so "jumpy." He indignantly tosses the pheasant down without answering: "I'm sick of these stinkin' birds."
Over the horizon line, airplane engines are heard - a three-wing and a two-wing airplane fly overhead, close to the house and toward the gazebo. One of the planes appears to have engine trouble, so the planes land nearby and taxi up to the house. Abby is thrilled by the approach of the brightly-colored machines. The three fliers are members of an Italian vaudeville troupe, led by an emotionally-high-strung man (Richard Libertini), a belly dancer (Sahbra Markus), and a midget wrestler (Frenchie Lombard). That evening, they perform a slapstick show with a gorilla outfit, and the belly dancer performs in front of a backdrop of the Taj Mahal. They also project Charlie Chaplin's silent film, The Immigrant (1917), accompanied by one of Linda's most fractured, confusing narratives:
(Linda's voice-over) Just when things were about to blow, this flying circus come in. After six months on this weed patch, I needed a breath of fresh air. They were screamin' and yellin' and boppin' each other. He, the big one, pushed the little one, and said, 'Come on, I started, you stop.' The little one just started in. If they couldn't think of a good one to comeback with, they'd start fightin'. The little one said, 'No, I didn't do this.' The big one said, 'Yes, you did do this.' You couldn't sort it out. The Devil just sittin' there laughin'. He's glad when people does bad. Then he sends them to the snake house. He just sits there and laughs and watch, while you're sittin' there all tied up and snakes are eatin' your eyes out. They go down your throat and eat all your systems out.
In the gazebo, Bill whispers to Abby about his pent-up feelings for her:
Bill: You're usin' me, you know. You're drivin' me crazy. I don't know if I'm comin' or goin'.
Abby: You never did.
As he returns to the gazebo, the farmer looks on and sees the two silhouetted figures behaving indiscreetly - and it angers him. Realizing that their sibling relation is a fraudulent farce, he swipes away his medicine bottles from his night table.
(Linda's voice-over) I think the Devil was on the farm.
In the morning, the farmer yanks the covers off of Abby and demands an explanation for the previous evening's indiscretion between a supposed brother and a sister. She dismisses his jealousy by arguing that times have changed:
Farmer: What's goin' on?
Abby: What's the matter?
Farmer: You know what I mean. (Abby nods negatively) Why do you let him touch you like that?
Abby: What are you talkin' about?
Farmer: I don't know how brothers and sisters act where you come from...
Abby: Did you ever have a sister? (No response) Well, then, who are you to judge?
Scared, Abby jumps from bed and runs off to speak to her brother about the brewing catastrophe: "I've never seen him act like this before. He must think we're awful." Bill disregards the farmer's suspicions: "What do you care what he thinks? You're in love with him, aren't you?" Abby doesn't answer. Her unspoken admiration and feelings for the upright and caring farmer irritate Bill.
As the vaudevillian performers prepare to leave, Bill has packed to take advantage of their transportation. He explains his purpose in leaving to the farmer - to take care of "some business." The planes' engines rev up, take off, and float up into the sky:
(Linda's voice-over) He seen how it all was. She loves the farmer.
During Bill's absence of a few months, the farmer and Abby are relieved and the newlyweds grow closer and come to love each other even more. The winter months approach, with snow on the ground. Wrapped together in blankets, Abby and the farmer are pulled in a red sleigh by a white horse across the snow-covered plains. Indoors, Abby sketches a plaster-model or Roman bust. Outside, Abby and Linda make snow angels on the ground. Abby and Linda begin to enjoy the fruits of life that accompany wealth.
(Linda's voice-over) He taught me keys on the piano and notes. He taught me about the parts of a globe.
In the spring, the land is plowed by a giant tractor to cultivate the soil and plant seed. Seagulls fly into the field in search of grasshoppers and other insects. The farmer holds a handful of seed under his nose and smells its rich aroma. Abby, the farmer, and Linda cavort at night with Roman candles and fireworks on Independence Day. The farmer has laid out the design of a 50-foot boat with white-washed rocks - and he shows off the deck and cabin of the imaginary boat to Abby.