30 July 2005 | Theo Robertson
A Not Unimpressive Amoral Film
While the end credits were rolling I noticed an on screen disclaimer along the lines of " All the characters and situations are fictional and any relation between the events depicted in this film is entirely coincidental " which had me scratching my head because whenever I read about Terence Malik's BADLANDS I'm told that it's based on a true story about two teenage lovers who went on a killing spree in 1950s America . Thank you very much IMDb for pointing out via the trivia section and other reviewers comments as to why the producers suddenly wanted everyone to think that this is not intended as a true story . I'm sure it would have been impossible to make anti heroes out of the true life protagonists
As it stands Kit and Holly are portrayed as two amoral children living out a childhood wish fulfillment . They kill someone and then spend a long period of time living out in the woods . It's almost like these childhood fantasies we have when we're younger how wonderful it would be if we could just escape from a world of industrialization and adults and just do whatever the hell we wanted with no interference and the point is hammered home when Kit builds a tree house out in the woods . Who but a child has ambitions to spend their life in a tree house ? However I find myself asking myself how this would be possible , is it likely that two teenagers wanted for murder , who have no probable experience of rural life and who both smoke cigarettes being to live off the land without having to buy groceries or go into town ? I could have accepted this if it stuck to a true story but not if it's been heavily fictionalised . Likewise we really don't find out the motivation behind the killing spree , Kit and Holly ( Well Kit since Holly is portrayed as being a bystander of sorts ) allow some people to live and some people to die without any rhyme or reason to it . Come to think of it perhaps the reason BADLANDS is so well regarded is because it's supposedly based on a true story . If you start looking upon it as a made up story it seems shallow and unimpressive for the most part doesn't it ?
Not to be negative this is a good debut by director Terance Malik who manages to bring out two very good performances from the then fairly unknown Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen . Remember I said something about childhood wish fulfillment ? that's exactly how Spacek and Sheen play their roles - As two children with misguided views on the world in general and love in particular . It's as if Kit and Holly are unaware of what consequence is , which again seems like a child's mentality would be . I also couldn't help noticing that Malik seems to have a great love of nature with shots of wild life and glorious and beautiful sun sets filling the screen , something he used in his later masterwork of THE THIN RED LINE which made me ask myself if Malik is a member of Greenpeace ? Perhaps not since he's an auteur who seems to know that while there's great beauty in nature there's also great cruelty present too
A good though perhaps not great example of cinema from the 1970s when amorality was all the rage