Tuesday, 2 December 2008

FILM REVIEW - Badlands...

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Terrence Malick's towering achievement, Badlands is a tale of two youngsters, Kit and Holly; both immersed in fantasies based on Hollywood magazines and James Dean movies, who go on a killing spree from South Dakota to Montana. This film is about two underdeveloped youngsters isolated from the rest of the world. There is no psychoanalysis, and no glorification of violence as with Arthur Penn's Bonnie & Clyde. Instead the film is naturalistic, meditative and detached, but never cold. The performances are impeccable, especially from the two leads; Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen, who lend the characters a kind of perverse innocence and make them interesting. Malick never condemns them either; they are portrayed as human beings. Yet as despicable as Kit Carruthers is, I somehow care for him. He's like a child, unable to comprehend the damage he causes; almost innocent. So it's deeply sad when this odd creation is sentenced to death by the electric chair...as terrible as the pair are, they seem like the only living things in a dead and empty world, giving the film a chaotic and apocalyptic feel...

But what's most impressive about the film is the way Malick imaginitively connects landscape with character. This is evident in one scene in which Holly (Spacek) flatly spouts useless information about movie stars from a celebrity magazine as the flat, desolate "badlands" pass like a convair belt in the background. These people are so detached from reality that when we're with them we feel like we're on another planet; as witness Kit (Sheen) staring into space in a scarecrow like position while a storm occurs in the distance and various creatures observe with curiosity. This sense of isolation, loneliness and the infinite is what makes this film truly haunting. The film ends at an airstrip where Kit and Holly are being flown away. There is a shot of a postman carrying mail to signify that normal life continues even as the insane fantasies of Kit and Holly fly above the clouds and into the sunset...

2 comments:

Kyle said...

I liked it a lot, especially the performances from Sheen and Spacek, but I think the movie overall pales in comparison to The New World and especially to Days of Heaven, which is Malick's masterpiece in my mind.

steven 559 said...

I thought his later films were great, but lacking in the simple shoe-string budget charm of Badlands...