So last night was great. I haven't seen 'Badlands' in years, and it was a nice surprise to still feel the same weight of urgency and surprise of identity as I did the first time. This is still my favorite Malick film, although a recent viewing of 'The Thin Red Line' has bumped that up a bit in my esteem.
But really, this is a vastly different film for him, when you consider his filmography, and it stands out to me as one of his deeper character studies, relying less on his cinematographer and more on his own perceptiveness to carry the message of the film to the viewer.
To call ‘
Badlands’ a masterpiece may be an
understatement. To be honest, it is such
an overwhelmingly good film that I don’t really know what to label it. It’s a brilliant depiction of youth and
celebrity and societal provocation. What
on the outset may appear like just another ‘killing-couple’ film really proves
to have the legs to carry it much farther than the genre typically allows.
Badlands’ was the directorial debut for famed director
Terrence Malick. Malick himself is a
visionary filmmaker who stamps his breed of creative juice all over every
picture he takes on.
The man is somewhat of a cinematic enigma, but his crystal clear point
of view makes films like ‘Badlands’ so instantaneously admirable. ‘ Badlands’, for me, is probably Malick’s most intimate
film. That isn’t to say that ‘Days of
Heaven’ or even ‘The New World’ don’t gather at their feet a layer of intimacy
(and ‘The New World’ truly tries harder than any of Malick’s other films), but
there is a natural intimacy captured within the fractured relaying of events
caught on film here. The gritty use of
close-ups and stilled moments create something genuine within the characters on
screen, and they latch themselves into the hearts of the audience, despite
their atrocious acts of violence.
Badlands’ never condones, yet it never judges either.
The film is a fictionalized retelling of the true story involving a couple who murdered many in
during the late 50’s. In Malick’s
version, that couple is rebel Kit and the young and naïve Holly. Kit is quite a bit older than Holly, but she
takes a liking to him and eventually allows him to date her despite her daddy’s
concerns. When her father stands in the
way of their bond, Kit kills him and then takes Holly on the run. Their killing spree doesn’t end their, in
fact it continues on and on for quite some time, all the while the authorities
and media are in a frenzy over the missing couple. South Dakota
The films major statement is made in the climax, which carefully yet rather bluntly paints Kit to be a national celebrity. It’s a sick realization, but it is an astute one. Now, this concept is not new to the movie-goer. The idea that the media creates serial killers is not a new one, and it has been discussed time and time again. What I loved so much about the way that ‘
Badlands’ handles the matter is that it really saves that
assessment for last. We are kind of
blindsided by the general reaction to Kit, and his overall attitude towards his
own crimes comes off like a major shock.
The real mystery here lies in the eyes of Holly; innocent bystander or malicious contributor?
The performances by both Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek are award worthy. Spacek captures the characters ambiguity rather effortlessly, but for me it is definitely the James Dean-esque marvel that is Martin Sheen who takes the cake in the acting department. It is such a layered performance, one that takes shape over time, revealing little bits of itself here and there before you understand the entirety of the man.
But like all of Malick’s films, the actors are just another paint color with which he creates his of vision. Malick is always the star of his own show.
So tonight I'll be watching Oliver Stone's 'Natural Born Killers'. This is one I haven't seen before, even thought I hear it is one of his best. I'm sure most of you have seen it, so if you have any reviews you'd like me to link, let me know! Until tomorrow...