Badlands (1973) (PG)

"Badlands" is a "Bonnie and Clyde" type of story. Our main characters are not the typical good-guys; they could not even be considered as ethical. Yet, we have them as out protagonists.
"Badlands" is the debut film from Terrence Malick, who has become one of my favorite directors. But I don't think that if you didn't know it, you could have pegged "Badlands" as a Malick film. In fact, all the telltale signs are almost missing completely: the gorgeous cinematography, the nature shots, the whispered narrations, the sound editing, and the score itself.
You have to remember what happened in Malick's own life while directing. He made "Badlands" and then "Days of Heaven" and after that—he vanished. He earned a mysteriousness while on leave from directing; and after several years he made "The Thin Red Line" and then "The New World".
The gap in his career between his first two movies and his third may account for the stylistic changes that can be observed.
But Malick still seems to give us a sampling of the works yet to come: a dual nature in man is still a theme that is muddled yet present. Nature still appears as a character on the screen; and we do have a voiced-over narration—though it differs from most everything else Malick has done.
"Badlands" is Malick's most plot-driven film.
Kit is a wild-child. He has a job as a garbage man and is always heckling his colleagues, trying to get an extra dollar out of someone. He is modeled after James Dean, a man who is mentioned more than once in "Badlands". The tight, white shirt and the blue jeans...the perfect hair—when he meets Holly, it doesn't take much to sweep her off her feet.
Holly is a very wise, young girl. She is still in highschool, trying to find some excitement out of her life. When she meets Kit, it's clear in an instant that both of them will have some sort of future together.
Kit is ten years older than Holly, a fact that makes her father infuriated. They keep their "romance" very secret.
Their relationship is odd at best. The platonic view of sex and the logical ways that lead them to crimes are very bizarre...yet by Malick's hand, altogether plausible.
"Badlands" is modeled after the Charles Starkweather case—a young man who, although likable, was a hardened criminal.
"Badlands" was a jump start to both its leading actors's careers. Martin Sheen plays Kit and Sissy Spacek plays Holly. Spacek is calm and innocent, letting the camera eat up her bright eyes. On the other hand, Sheen is reckless and embodies the teenage rebel spirit quite well.
Holly grows up in a home with only one parent. Her mother died when she was very young and has been raised by her father, who is somewhat cruel. He can be irrational though he only wants the best for his daughter. When he discovers that Holly has been running around with Kit, he kills her dog as punishment.
Holly is precise, not wailing as most girls would, nor being emotionless.
As previously said, I don't think that you could have figured out that "Badlands" was a Malick's so different from anything else that he has done.
The violence, which serves no philosophical purpose (as it did in "The Thin Red Line" and "The New World") is something quite unusual to see.
Malick is always kind to women and Holly is yet another strong female character that he crafts. Though the film centers around Kit, as the parallel to Starkweather, the actual main character is is her voice that he hear for the entire picture.
It's funnier, edgier, and wilder than any other film Malick has made. The car chases and gun shots ringing through the air, make you forget the intense poetry of the director. But there are times, like the ending, which showcase the director and the man that he would become.
It's impossible to see "Badlands" without making comparisons to Malick's other works. Yet, as a stand alone film, the movie is incredibly good.
It is a bizarre twist of a romance that starts and ends mathematically.
"Badlands" is curiously riveting.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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