There was a moment on my walk this morning, at about 5:30 a.m., when I just stopped dead in my tracks and watched the horizon change from blue-black to blushing violet.
In the movie industry, this stretch of time is known as magic hour. Cinematographers who shoot in these few precious moments, if they know what they are doing, have the ability to create some of the most beautiful imagery one can imagine.
The best known example of an entire motion picture, shot almost exclusively at magic hour—sunset also qualifies as magic hour—is Days of Heaven (1978). The late Nestor Almendros ( 1930-1992) something of a genius, was Director of Photography (the great Haskell Wexler also worked as DP) and every frame of the film dazzles.
Though something of an art house movie, Days of Heaven had a profound effect on my psyche. As a young screenwriter, anxious to learn my craft, I managed to get hold of the shooting script and was struck by the manner in which the pared down language of Terence Malick’s screenplay managed to suggest the power of the final imagery.
Why do I bring this up the day before the 2012 presidential election?
In 1978, I was a young, struggling, impoverished screenwriter. Ever since I was a child, all I ever wanted was to marry Karen, my wife, and to be a Hollywood screenwriter.
I worked hard. I struggled against insane odds to make both dreams come true. So preoccupied was I with my personal and professional struggles, I never realized, never really understood, that by virtue of being an American, I was given the liberty to pursue my dreams.
I took this gift of freedom for granted.
Shame on me.
Days of Heaven is a romantic drama, a love triangle set against the immense Texas panhandle, where migrant farm workers harvest crops that whisper in the wind like biblical psalms. The landscape, painfully beautiful, becomes, in and of itself, a character in the film. This is a vision of America that those who love America hold close to their hearts.
I fear that the America I love, the America that has allowed me to travel from Brooklyn to Hollywood is gradually being crushed under the onslaught of the utopian left.
This radical ideology is personified by the Obama administration which promotes dependency on government, government as family, government as g-d.
Utopian leftists recognize no boundaries between the state and the individual. They seek a radical egalitarianism, a constant agitation to perfect man and society. To do this, the left cites the squishy doctrines of social justice and fairness. To do this, the left must crush the individual and his personal yearnings. To do this, the left institutes a one-size fits all model. This is Obamacare. If enacted in full, your body belongs to the government. You are no longer you; you are just another dot in the matrix of government statistics.
There I was, at 5:30 in the morning, watching the swollen sun rise, thinking of my life, thankful that I have achieved my dreams. And yet, fearful that America’s days of heaven might soon fade to black, like the end of a memorable movie.