Sunday, October 16, 2011

Film Review: Badlands

Another Terrence Malick film, another great work.

Badlands is one of only five films directed by Terrence Malick and was released in 1973.

Finding common themes with his later works such as The Thin Red Line, The New World, and The Tree of Life we again get the slow pacing, voiceovers, and beautiful shots of nature that appear again and again in his films.

In Badlands we get what can rightfully be claimed as one of the progenitors of "youth gone wild" crime films such as later works like True Romance or Natural Born Killers.  True Romance even went as far as to "borrow" the Carl Orff piece, Gassenenhauer, as its thematic music.

Malick treats the young criminals portrayed here by Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek with appropriate candor. Unlike Oliver Stone with Natural Born Killers or other recent films and society in general, there is no room here for trying to explain why these two are psychopaths or what the influences are behind their actions.  Instead, they are allowed to be what they are without excuse or pretense.

In Sheen's character, Kit, you have a true psychotic without feeling or remorse who can't tell right from wrong while believing the world revolves around (and is out to get) only him.  Spacek's character Holly, is a dumb, ignorant, starry eyed little girl without a backbone or moral compass.  They're perfect for one another.

Death is handed out in rapid succession by Kit once the film begins moving along as the couple act as a force of nature upon their world and while not as violent as earlier works such as Bonnie and Clyde or The Wild Bunch, there is a more honest portrayal of murder here than in anything to be found today.

If the youth of today think they've cornered the market on being disaffected, bored, and without purpose, maybe they should go back 40 years and see this film.  They're merely retreading issues older than their parents--only their parents and grandparents didn't make excuses or cover it up with whining.

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