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  • Is it really possible that this luminous masterpiece is a first feature film? It is as though Mozart had started his career in composition with one of his mature symphonies. What is totally special about 'Badlands' is the visual control that Terrence Malick applies to the story, and his use of fabulous music to embed his amazing images in our mind. The 'Bonnie & Clyde'-ish story could have been turgid, but Malick turns it into a mythic journey.

    At the heart of Malick's method is the fabulous interior monologue by Holly explaining and ironically commenting on the story. "Kit made me take my schoolbooks so I wouldn't fall behind with my studies...". This has been characteristic of each of Malick's films - Linda in 'Days of Heaven' and Witt in 'The Thin Red Line' have somewhat similar monologues - and 'New World' is monumentalised by the haunting monologue/montage with which it ends. Here it totally sucks the viewer into the story and makes the montages that it accompanies into, just about, the high-point of seventies cinema.

    Alongside this, Malick uses some of the most haunting music in existence. Whether it is Carl Orff or Nat King Cole, Malick transports us with fabulous romantic imagery that perfectly balances it.

    I started on this comment determined not to use the word 'poetry', but I just can't avoid it. With nearly all filmmakers, including very great ones, the style that they present is very much prose - great prose, perhaps, but firmly rooted on the ground. With Malick, we are taken, emotionally, to the stars by the lyric magnificence of the totality of his vision.

    It is said that Welles learned cinema by watching John Ford's 'Stagecoach' before embarking on 'Citizen Kane'. Every young filmmaker should watch this amazing masterpiece again and again and again and inform their work with Malick's matchless sense of true cinema.
  • It's really a shame that Terrence Malick didn't have the brilliant career he deserved at Hollywood. Shot with a nearly shoestring budget, "Badlands" remains one of the most dazzling debut movies of all time. Malick's legend based on his (long) absence has helped it to become a cult-movie. Inspired by a tragic short news item which took place in 1959 (a young couple who decides to commit a series of free murders to leave a mark in history), the odds are that Malick's first feature-length movie inspired Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino for their dangerous and irresponsible "Natural Born Killers" (1994). Concerning Tarantino, I read an interview about him in which he expressed his admiration of Malick's work. It shows that the author of "Pulp Fiction" (1994) has a great esteem for this talented and mysterious film-maker. At the same time, we can also note down that Malick's work inspired Bruce "the Boss" Springsteen two songs: "Badlands" on his "darkness on the edge of town" album (1978) and "nebraska" on the eponymous LP(1982).

    An American journalist had written that "Badlands" was the best mastered movie in the history of cinema since "Citizen Kane" (1941) by Orson Welles. One can judge this affirmation as exaggerated but it is nevertheless indisputable that Malick's opus strikes on numerous aspects: an assertive and opaque story, a fluid making, a relevant screenplay, an original photography which gives to the landscapes an image of desolation and lost paradise perturbed by a free violence. The work is also strongly steeped in a certain poetry.

    Concerning the two main characters, a French critic had written that it was difficult to feel liking for these two irresponsible. I think that this critic badly analyzed the film. Terrence Malick doesn't try to make them likable to us. He describes them without kindness and condescension. They haven't got an imposing personality and live only through an intermediary myth. It is particularly obvious for the young man (Martin Sheen) who is obsessed with James Dean. One can also say that Sissi Spacek's voice-over which tells this dramatic story is of an amazing neutrality. Then, unlike many criminal lovers, Sheen and Spacek will live at the heart of this violence and the latter won't bring them together or take them away.

    With "Badlands", Malick was judicious for the choice of the actors. In a way, his first movie enabled to put Sheen and Spacek on the map and it also launched their respective careers. Then, what happened to Terrence Malick after this sensational debut movie? A second movie, "Days of Heaven" (1978) starring Richard Gere as successful as "Badlands". After that, for twenty years, nothing. However, in 1998, Malick made a rather successful come-back with "the Thin Red Line" (1998). According to the latest news, he would currently shoot a movie about the first years of America's colonization in the beginning of the seventeenth century. If my memory serves me well, the movie will be released next year. Let's hope so...

    Like this?try these....

    "gun crazy" ,Joseph H.Lewis ,1950

    "you only live once" Fritz Lang,1936

    "Bonnie and Clyde" Arthur Penn,1967
  • Kit is a garbage man, Holly just a teenager living with her father. Kit and Holly get together and Holly's father disapproves. Kit kills Holly's father and together they go on the lam and a few others get killed in the proceedings.

    This 1973 landmark film was the directorial debut of one Terrence Malick. It's been described by many as one of the most mature debuts in film history. The numbness of Sheen's and Spacek's characters is haunting and makes a very strong point and it's very hard to swallow. Spacek's voice-over, which tells how she experiences life with Kit, is disturbing and yet, poetically beautiful. The sheer innocence of her character, her bright-eyed view of the world, her acceptance of Kit's explanations make a stronger point in the examination of two completely alienated individuals than any other movie I can think of.

    Martin Sheen has never been better than here. His Kit, obsessed with James Dean apparently, is one of cinema's coldest villains. His utter detachment in all the proceedings is a wonder to behold. He's completely numb and that's more haunting than any outburst of rage. He's a flawed product of society. He doesn't feel evil, he just doesn't feel anything. Sissy Spacek is also wonderful in her role, giving a very memorable performance as Holly.

    Terence Malick's direction is superb. The cinematography by Tak Fujimoto is beautiful, every frame simply looks stunning and he captures the era wonderfully. It's hard to believe this film is over 30 years old. The music is also very good, with a catchy melody which seems to go well the innocence portrayed in Spacek's character. This almost feels like a children's tune.

    This film is considered to be loosely based on the real life killing spree committed by Charlie Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate in 1958. Starkweather was executed and up until his last day alive, he said that Caril was just an observer but finally said she was as guilty of the killings as he, even initiating some herself.

    Badlands however says in the end credits that the story is fictional.

    One of the best films of the 1970's.
  • In January, 1958, nineteen-year-old Charles Starkweather and fourteen-year-old Caril Ann Fugate went on a murder spree in Nebraska and Wyoming. Eleven innocent people died. Most, though not all, of the killings were random. Starkweather and Fugate's story "inspired" several films, including this one.

    In "Badlands", the pair's names were changed to Kit Carruthers (Martin Sheen) and Holly Sargis (Sissy Spacek), and their ages were altered slightly. From what I have read, Starkweather and Fugate were emotionally detached and casual about the killings, especially Charles, once the initial murders had occurred. Both Sheen and Spacek do a good job of mimicking this nonchalant attitude. At various points throughout the film, Holly narrates the story in an emotionless, monotone voice. It's like she's reading a diary of what happened as we, the viewers, watch movie footage of the events.

    The film's title is appropriate, given that the characters' inner lives must surely have been wastelands, and given that the film's plot takes place mostly outdoors, on the lonesome High Plains, with its brooding and "stark" landscape.

    The film's color cinematography conveys a mood of desolation, especially in those scenes that contain little more than the horizon, expansive blue sky, treeless plains, and a couple of lonely desperados. At one point, the color morphs into sepia-tinted images of small town America, as the whole country, in fear, takes up arms against the fugitives, a photographic change that renders an almost documentary tone to the film.

    From time to time, classical background music accompanies the senseless violence, a cinematic contrast so "stark" as to make the film surreal. And, of course, the sequence toward the end where Kit and Holly, with car radio on, dance in the headlights as Nat King Cole sings "A Blossom Fell", is truly mournful and haunting.

    "Badlands" is incredibly understated and low-key, as detached as the characters portrayed. Director Terrence Malick conveys a simple, uninvolved story, packaged in a film that makes no effort to communicate either symbolism or thematic depth. Nor does the film render judgments about the characters or events. It's an approach that probably wouldn't work today. But it is effective, and through the years the film has gradually become more respected as an excellent character study of 1950's teen rebels without a cause.
  • The serial killer genre is the most overdone in modern cinema, but director Terrence Mallick took a real life story to make his powerful debut, 'Badlands'. He even toned it down, his interest being not in presenting a picture of pure (and wholly artificial) evil but rather in portraying a wholly human story. Murder is depicted here in all its banality - people shot (off-screen) through locked doors, by a young man acting for wholly normal motives but without the customary restraints on behaviour that we term morals. The result is a haunting, though occasionally pretentious, study of individuals drifting beyond the bounds of civilisation, their physical location (America's still-wild west) symbolically matching their mental isolation. Sissy Spacek is particularly good as the ordinary girl just along for the ride. A fine film, 'Badlands' is also genuinely disturbing, in a way that Hannibal Lector could only dream of.
  • Surely one of the most brilliant films ever made. The haunting music and cinematography would almost suffice by itself. The hero is little more than a child: the heroine his willing accomplice, and we are made to question what is good and what is evil by seeing the world through the eyes of children. From the moment when the girl's father shoots her dog to punish her, we lose any loyalty to traditional values or to the rights of parents over their children. By the end, it's obvious to us that society doesn't value the lives of those who were killed. It anticipates Natural Born Killers, but perhaps says more and uses a tighter structure.

    Brilliantly acted and directed, with many layers to it. A film to watch again and again.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Made in the early 1970s, this was more of classic type crime story than a modern-day one in that the violence wasn't overdone and it was a slower-paced story than what you would see if re-made today.

    That slower pace makes for a better study of the two main characters, who were based on the real-life serial-killing duo of the 1950s: Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend.

    Martin Sheen's Starkweather-type character "Kit Carruthers" is amazingly low- key for a killer and Sissy Spacek, playing his girl, "Holly," shows some really strange reactions (she hardly reacts after Sheen shoots her father) while providing fascinating narration. In fact, the more I watch this film, the more Spacek's narration is the highlight for me. It's great stuff.

    Being a Terrence Malick-directed film, you know you are going to get some nice photography. He really loves closeups of nature. Another plus is the absence of profanity. There is very little of it.
  • BADLANDS is an intelligent little film. We're given characters and situations and left to make our own conclusions. Based on an actual young couple who went on a killing spree across the southwest in the late 1950s, the story has two young people doing their own thing with precious little in the way of ethics to guide them. It's interesting to note that both these kids substitute their own fantasies for any sense of order or responsibility that society may have to offer. The turning point comes when Kit and Holly decide to shuck their semblances of normal life for whatever their fantasies provide which, unfortunately, can't sustain them. Sheen's Kit is full of swagger and bravado; it's almost easy for someone to see him committing robberies and serial murders. Spacek's Holly is more intriguing: a soft, vanilla, invisible girl from a respectable, emotionally detached home, she seemingly possesses little in the way of what one would associate with a violent criminal. Yet, she accompanies Kit, with nothing in the way of reservations or regret. The chance to fulfill her vapid, movie magazine fantasies, if only by hiding out in the woods and applying makeup, seem infinitely more palatable than her dull existence twirling batons in her yard(it's interesting to note that one of the few things she takes away from her home is a highly romanticized, Maxfield Parrish print). These misguided illusions, along with her adolescent love for Kit, keep her going to the end. A worthwhile exploration of the bland, vacant American sensibility that values appearances or passive, benign behavior over real ethics and personal morality. And definitely more relevant as the years have passed.
  • Badlands, based on the relationship between Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate (and later an inspiration for Tarantino's True Romance and NBK), never has a moment where something un-realistic curries. Writer/producer/director Terence Malick leads his film along with a true emphasis on both the psychological nature of Kit (Martin Sheen) and Holly (Sissy Spacek), and with the un-canny knack for a relaxing style in his camera. At best, Badlands is one of the successful homages to European cinema of the 1970's, something that will last a long time due to its pairing of absorbing art-house and (perhaps) mainstream sensibilities. At worst, a viewer could feel bored with Malick's intent on running with his poetic ideas as a director. If there was any pretentiousness at all, it went over my head; this is a film that draws you into its tragic nature.

    Sheen and Spacek are totally believable as a couple on the run, as Kit continually has a trigger-happy attitude to people after he shoots Holly's father. While Spacek holds the heart of the picture steady, I'd have to say that Sheen's Kit is one of his best performances. He comes off in the perfect sense- you wouldn't think for a second that Kit could be a killer, that is until he pulls out his pistol. It works just as well that Holly is the narrator, so that the viewer can understand where Kit's coming from, and where he's going. If there is any distance between his character and the audience, there's still a strong, emotional connection through Spacek, and their bond as a loving, if dangerous, couple.

    Overall, Badlands is extraordinary in a way that doesn't cram its atmospheric from start to finish on the audience, and it looks at young people in love, however in such twisted circumstances, in an honest way in how escalatory events create a disillusioned feeling in youth. That it's made on such a low budget gives it more merit. Kudos should go to the musical score by James Taylor, Gunild Keetman and George Tipton, too; it's one of the best debuts of the 70's. A+
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Typical of director Terrence Malick's work, "Badlands" revolves around a couple of loners who ostracise themselves from society and attempt to live in the wilderness. They eke out a natural existence, living a romantic life in the vein of Henry Thoreau, but gradually the outside world encroaches, leading to conflict and eventually death.

    Our "heroes" are an odd bunch. She's (Holly) an ugly duckling and social outcast whose life was derailed by the death of her mother, and he's (Kit) a loser who collects garbage and preys on little girls too naive to recognise that he's a bum. Like most of Malick's "heroes", they're in search of some idyllic haven, a quest which takes them to the dust-bowls of South Dakota. Like Malick's "The New World", in which both England and America were "new worlds", this film's title thus has a double meaning. Our heroes not only retreat "into" the badlands, but "away" from what they perceive to be the badlands, in this case the covert hostility of small town America.

    Though the film is structured as the hazy memories of a slightly older Holly, its visual "fabric" is almost completely at odds with Holly's recollections. Kit and Holly perceive themselves to be deep and brooding loners akin to James Dean, Bonnie and Clyde and medieval romantics, but the audience is always aware that they're just a couple of flat and vapid personalities. In other words, Holly wrongly annotates her own story, and it is only gradually, as the story unfolds, that she wakes up to this fact.

    Kit is himself constantly proclaiming that he "has things on his mind", and yet everything he says and does proves otherwise. Kit's void is made most apparent by his obsession with James Dean. When others mention that he looks like Dean, Kit's eyes light up, his face brimming with a kind of narcissism. He's a nobody, and comparisons to Dean allow him to expropriate, if only for a little while, somebody else's fame.

    Kit's "disenchantment with self" is emphasised during the film's final scene. "You're quite an individual," a police officer says as Kit boards a plane on route for the electric chair. "Think they'll take that into consideration?" Kit naively replies. Individuality, and the fact that society does not cater for it, is precisely why Kit and Holly find themselves marginalised.

    The people whom Kit kills (co-workers, Holly's father etc) in his attempts to evade the law and maintain his freedom (and relationship with Holly) therefore demonstrate that Kit's rebellion is, quite unconsciously, a rebellion against a social order which wants him confined to the outskirts of society. The flights of the various "individuals" in Malick's "Days of Heaven" and "The Thin Red Line" follow this same trend, Richard Gere killing his factory boss and going on the run in the former film, James Caviziel ditching the army and going on the run in the latter.

    But rather than treat sex, love and freedom as a cynosure for unity and elation, Malick depicts romance as the locus of division and indifference. "Is that it?" Holly disappointedly says after the couple first have sex, a line which marks the point at which their romance begins to collapse.

    The disintegration of Kit and Holly's "romance" (he begins to question whether she really was a virgin, she begins to view him as a bum) mirrors the couple's disenchantment with being "free" and "living in the new world". But Holly's journey from romantic naivety to disillusionment also mirrors the arc of the film's philosophical meta-story, which charters a war between the Romantic Ideal of man-in-harmony with nature, with the Post Enlightenment Ideal of man "lording over" nature.

    Romanticism began as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and as a revolt against the social and political norms of scientific rationalism and the Age of Enlightenment. It favoured ancient customs, folk art, "returning to nature", spontaneity, enchantment, freedom, and rejected rational and Classicist models in favour for a form of Medievalism which, in theory, helped one escape the confines of population growth, urban sprawl, and industrialism. In short, the Romantic Ideal exalted a kind of gifted, enchanted, misunderstood loner whose creativity followed the dictates of his own wild inspirations rather than the mores of contemporary society. Such a "romantic outlaw" is found at the core of every Malick flick.

    So Malick's films deal with what German sociologist Max Weber calls "Rationalization's disenchantment of the world", in which society cherishes "instrumental Rationality" over and above "value rationality" to such an extent that magic/spirituality/religion/ethereality is slowly eroded. This process of devaluation or disenchantment gives rise to a condition of cultural nihilism in which the intrinsic value or meaning of ideals and actions is increasingly subordinated to a "rational" quest for efficiency, control and the pursuit of "mundane materials", often by violence. Weber calls this the "iron cage of specialists without spirit and sensualists without heart" (Holly's father is an artist but uses his talents on advertisements).

    In breaking free of their worlds and retreating to the Romantic Ideal, Malick's "heroes" are thus searching for some mythical wholeness, some non-existent Eden which is unattainable precisely because all pre-enlightenment myths of wholeness have been displaced by the modern discovery of a plurality of worlds. The tensions of Malick's films, however, arise from the fact that the modern world which allows for all, also allows for nothing. As plurality is threatening, the Social Order attempts to reduce this threatening plurality - and the sceptical undermining of knowledge and morality it entails - to one universal world again by means of conquest and domination. And that is the paradox Malick explores: the Post Enlightenment world which preaches multiplicity but seeks to impose its own unity, its own singular Law (imperialism/colonialism/the Big Other), and the Romantic Ideal which promises some spiritual wholeness, but delivers only the lawless, malevolence of Nature.

    10/10 – Worth multiple viewings.
  • I hesitated before writing this review, because *everyone* seems to think this movie is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    Personally, I thought it was deadly dull, and the characters unmotivated cardboard cutouts who have nothing in common with real human beings.

    I also object to Malick's fundamental dishonesty. In his desperate desire to say something Real And Meaningful (in other words, arrogant and sophomoric) about the horrible 1950s, he uses Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate as an emblem of alienation in Ike's Amerika, while minimizing the actual crimes they committed. (Among other things, Starkweather murdered Fugate's two-year-old sister by ramming a rifle muzzle down her throat until she choked to death. He also sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl before he and Fugate murdered and mutilated her. Neither of these crimes is so much as alluded to in the film, because The Message is too important to be sullied by mere truth.)

    So am I so out of touch?

    No. It's everyone else who is wrong.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Badlands" is a movie that is so flat it's infuriating. It is also anticlimactic and an ultimate failure.

    Innocent teen Holly (Sissy Spacek) meets troubled loner Kit (Martin Sheen) and their love affair turns into a killing spree and a life on the lam. And that's all. Throughout all the events that unfold in this story- some tragic, some funny, some frightening, and some heartbreaking- neither character expresses any strong emotion or any discernible personality. We know the characters LESS at the end of the film than we did at the beginning, and that is just as unsatisfying as it sounds.

    Was Kit destined to become a killer? Were there signs we should have seen? Was there something in his past that drove him to this? Does he enjoy these killings? Or is he riddled with guilt and remorse? Is he conflicted or confused, demented or brilliant? Director Terrence Malick never answers these questions. So why bother telling the story?

    Holly leaves us with the same void: Is she secretly proud of her crazed, violent protector? Is she mentally unstable herself for getting involved in this situation- and allowing it to continue? What's wrong with her? What's going on here?!? She spends the movie in a dreamlike state with no reaction to the events around her. Even Kit's best friend- who gets shot in the belly for trying to escape- has no reaction to his own impending death... he sits quietly on his bed reading old postcards and bleeding to death. Restraining actors to this degree is a crime against the craft.

    The closest we get to any real insight is the contrived, intentionally-stilted voice-over from Sissy Spacek, which ultimately reveals nothing. Our narrator's voice is detached, disassociated, and numb, even with the advance knowledge of all that has happened, and how. To tease the audience in this way is a defiant prank, and not very funny.

    What could have been a brilliant movie is ruined by Malick's refusal to reveal ANY motivation for any of his characters. Heck, we don't even understand why Holly's Father was so protective of her in the first place! A character study like this needs emotional highs and lows, conflict, confrontation... and after the first hour of watching Holly & Kit drift through this nightmare looking like they're stoned on painkillers the novelty begins to wear thin.

    I love Sheen & Spacek, and I very much wanted to like this movie, but it has been expertly crafted to communicate nothing. "Badlands" simply exists, and if this was the stunt Malick was hoping to achieve, his reward is that the film leaves no lasting impression.

    GRADE: C-
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I realize a lot of people are going to disagree with my thoughts on this movie because just like the awful movie " Natural Born Killers'' this movie is liked and sadly that says a lot about people.

    If you actually know anything about the real crime that inspired this movie you probably would find it hard to like...

    But let me start with this

    The director wanted to make the two main characters into heroes and failed to show them for what they really are and that's a couple of low life monsters who killed innocent people with no remorse. The director even goes out of his way to make you hate Holly's father ( played by the talented Warren Oates) he is cruel and sadistic taking her dog out and shooting it..therefore when he dies you feel nothing This movie turns victims into villains and villains into victims.

    Also the end scene where Kit gets arrested and the cops like him seemed a bit odd and juvenile almost like a fan fiction created from a delusional mind.

    Altogether its a very dull and pathetic movie. I hope that eventually someone gets this story right but I doubt it as its been tried and failed countless times.
  • Terrence Malick's crime-drama Badlands (1973), loosely based on the real-life murder spree of Charles Starkweather in 1958, is a harrowing and bleak film on a teenager's murderous adventure with his girlfriend. The film is told from the perspective of Holly (Sissy Spacek), a lost teenager living in a dull South Dakota town. She narrates the love story between herself and Kit (Martin Sheen), a young, charming man with looks that aren't dissimilar from James Dean. Holly is so smitten by him that she is corralled into becoming an accomplice during his killing spree, which commences with the murder of her disapproving father.

    Initially, the couple finds temporary relaxation, living in a forest with wooden shelter and animals to feed on. However, when Kit senses danger from three men holding shotguns, he ruthlessly guns them down before they get the chance to threaten. This begins a pattern that transpires like dominos falling down one after the other as Kit murders anyone and everyone that stands in his path.

    The film is well photographed by Tak Fujimoto with beautiful aesthetics of the colourful, vibrant and natural American countryside. This is the high point of Malick's film as well as the great performance from Martin Sheen. Whilst the story was engaging, it became too repetitive and tiresome after the same scenarios occurring from place to place on their killing spree. Personally, I found Badlands to be quite similar to Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde. However, Penn's is a far greater film to Malick's as Bonnie and Clyde has a superior constructed narrative consisting of characters that were explored with more depth

    Although I didn't particularly enjoy Badlands, it must be acknowledged that it is an impressive debut feature-film from Malick, which is the start of a lengthy and impressive career.
  • Based on the Starkweather-Fugate killing spree of the 1950's, this film follows 15 year old Holly Sargis as her quiet, small town existence is changed when she is approached by the 25 year old Kit Carruthers. The pair get friendly as they take walks together but Holly has to keep it a secret from her father, knowing he will disapprove. When her father finds out he shoots her dog as punishment but neither Holly nor Kit are dissuaded from being together. Kit decides to leave town and take Holly with him, when her father tries to stop him he kills him and heads off on the run.

    Although on the surface this sounds like a lovers-on-the-run film with a serial killer edge, Malick's writing and direction prevents it from just being what you expect as he delivers a memorable debut. I first saw this about 15 years about when I was about 13 or 14 and at the time I only remembered that not a lot happened and that I was quite bored, so I can appreciate why some viewers don't find this to their tastes. Watching it again the other day I found it much more interesting, perhaps because I am older or maybe because I wasn't paying attention the first time. The film is slow but it is very interesting because of the characters that Malick has written and then allowed to develop out over the film. On one side we have the cold Kit who is a cold killer on one hand but breaks into a smile at comparisons with James Dean and the chance of fame. It has been done loads since but the look at the fame-hungry killer here still feels fresh.

    On the other side of the story is Holly. As narrator a lot of weigh is put on her but the way it is done she is more than just a story teller. While the on screen action tells us about Kit, Holly's narration says a lot about her mind. Her fairytale, sing-song delivery and dialogue contrasts really well with the cold, unromantic violence on the screen. Her denial and desire to explain it all away is clear but not forced down the viewer's throat. The cast respond well to the direction and both give restrained but strong performances, avoiding showboating or pushing too hard. Sheen is strong, holding back for the majority and coming out at the end. Spacek is the heart of the story and her innocent (or naïve) character is played well both on screen as well as in her narration. Malick's direction is patient and as dry as the violence. The scenes are blessed with an open (empty) feel thanks to the impressive cinematography.

    Overall this is a slow film that is fairly empty if viewed on a superficial level just looking at the narrative. However the characters and the examination of their mindsets is what makes the film interesting and Sheen and Spacek both react well to that. It also helps that Malick has done a great job as writer and director while his cinematographers have produced a barren and pointless landscape to match the heartless and pointless killings.
  • 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
  • If Badlands was supposed to be an exercise in proving to this viewer that character Kit Carruthers was, indeed, the stupidest psycho-killer on the entire face of this planet, then, yes, it succeeded in its task, commendably.

    And, if Badlands was also out to prove that Kit's girl, Holly, was the most boring and apathetic accessory to his crimes, imaginable, then, once again, it accomplished its goal, admirably.

    To say that Badlands could've (and should've) been a helluva lot better than it was would truly be an understatement of the highest order.

    Filled-to-overflowing with demented dialogue, and endless "dead-air" moments, Badlands was, without question, one of those dimwitted stories that I swear they were just making it up as they went along.

    Based on a true-crime story, or not - The only thing that this truly godawful picture earned its 2-star rating for was some really impressive camera-work (when it came to the awesome images of the wide-open country in South Dakota and Texas).
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Perhaps because I'd been reading about this movie for years, I was expecting a lot more than I found. What I found was an uninteresting movie about uninteresting characters based on uninteresting people. If your idea of "interesting" is someone like Starkweather (OR his Real Life gal pal), consider yourself one of the Easily Entertained. Martin Sheen's point-and-shoot performance has all the depth of a target range cutout. The direction is nigh nonexistent: there's not one iota of SUSPENSE in scenes that in Real Life would've no doubt been TENSE and HORRIFYING: here, they're simply presented in a matter-of-fact manner, like a walk-through tour of a museum. (Compare this one to the ZODIAC movie of just a few years ago, or the Korean nail-biter, MEMORIES OF MURDER.) The most interesting thing about BADLANDS is the cinematography.
  • A Terrence Malick film being weird is about as unusual as snow in Alaska, but with his debut Badlands, it's a weirdness I can't bring myself to like. Though he got himself a very interesting subject in loosely adapting the story of real-life murderer Charles Starkweather, his writing made me find the story dull after just a couple of minutes and the one and a half hours running time felt like an eternity.

    Admittedly, the relationship the two protagonists have can make for some good scenes from time to time and the car chase (70's car chase, mind you) near the ending for once also brings some excitement to the film, but altogether, Malick really stretches the story out way too long and remarkable moments are very sparse. Even the beautiful landscape quickly loses its touch, as the three (for whatever reason) cinematographers can't come up with ways to give the film an appealing look. Especially when compared to the visual splendour of some of Malick's later works, it's almost unbelievable how generic everything looks in Badlands. The acting can't carry the film either and the chemistry of Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek is absolutely weak, making the characters' feelings and thoughts not any clearer it all.

    I've noticed most people feeling more positive about this film than I do and I really attempted to understand some of their arguments, but to me, Terrence Malick completely wastes a great premise and has his film lacking any sort of recognition value. The Tree of Life, a project of his almost three decades later, is nearly an hour longer and only has a quarter of the script as I'd guess, yet is a hundred times more interesting, inventive, and poetic than Badlands.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I was stunned and amazed by the great reviews of this movie. It's unfortunate that you can't (yet) rate 'why' a movie is good or bad, because this is definitely a tale of two movies. As a drama, I give the rating which I entered as my official rating – 1 out of 10 stars. This is no reflection on Martin Sheen or Sissy Spacek's talents or performances. Neither is it a reflection on the general plot, since it was based on a true story (a fact, which until recently I didn't know). I own the movie, and watch it from time to time, but it's because I would give the movie about 7 out of 10 stars as a comedy. The dialogue is hilarious! My brother and I saw it in the early 80s on t.v., pre-cable, and laughed until we were almost crying. So anyway – I couldn't in good conscience give a movie that is categorized as a drama, and is so horribly bad, a good rating. If somebody recommended this movie to me as a great drama, I would never trust their opinion on anything else again. Anyway, it's interesting to see how differently people see this movie, but variety is the spice of life. It's doubtful anyone will get through the current 12 pages of comments on this movie to read my comments, but few movies I've seen, if any, have polarized audiences like this one. There's plenty of movies where people seem to either love it or hate it, but this is the only one I can think of where the two opposing factions would give a movie the same rating for opposite reasons.
  • It has been said that Badlands was in part a reaction to the romanticising of deviance and criminality in films such as Bonnie and Clyde. In that film the protagonists were played by two fabulous-looking, charismatic (not to mention talented) actors. I came away feeling that Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow would have been great fun to hang around with--dangerous, sexy fun.

    Badlands is not like that. Sure, no-one would really want to be like or spend time with Kit Carruthers (based directly on fifties killer Charles Starkweather). But I was troubled by several aspects of this stunningly put together film. Essentially, it is fine craftsmanship created around a very difficult subject with little exploration of the characters, their motivations or the consequences of their actions. What remains for the viewer but a kind of detached voyeurism?

    Cruel and cowardly, Charlie Starkweather was full of self-loathing, believed himself a failure and felt his life was doomed to misery. Murder is a simple act that even the sub-intelligent can commit, but it has staggering consequences. Having killed, Starkweather changed; in a way he grew. He felt himself to have achieved something. It completed the sad story that was his life.

    Kit Carruthers, on the other hand, slouches, mumbles and poses throughout Badlands. We know almost nothing of his past. Of course, the narrative follows Holly's point of view, but since she appears to be in a dream and virtually clueless throughout the whole affair, how useful is this narrative method? At the end Kit is pretty much his same inscrutable self as at the beginning, except now he is famous. He's kinda cool and he knows it. When he kills it's as if he has met some unpleasant but important obligation that only he is qualified for. The murders themselves are sterilised, just a bang and the victim quietly lies down. The sets and locations are picturesque, the actors are picturesque, the murders are picturesque...

    The 1957 film In Cold Blood is a gripping example of what can be achieved when something of the nature of spree/serial killers is explored, when the consequences of their actions is stark and real, and when the people inside them are glimpsed. (And there are people inside, badly damaged and loathsome, but fascinating.)
  • Badlands (1973)

    It's true what everyone says—this is a kind of Bonnie and Clyde story. But don't get it wrong, this has none of the depth or fascination (or originality) of that famous 1967 movie. It's worth seeing because this is director Terrence Malick's first big film. For those who follow his movies (or avoid them—the negative reviews for his later work are astonishing), you'll see the first signs of characteristic moods and styles and themes.

    This romanticized story set around 1960 is shamelessly nostalgic. It is filled with intentional references to earlier (and better) sources, including Bonnie and Clyde itself and, most outwardly, James Dean. The violence is weirdly casual and frankly cruel and unfelt, and I suppose that's part of the aesthetic distancing involved in what is really a college student's view of the world. Not that Malick was still in college (he got out of film school four years earlier) but his sensibilities came from studying film more than living it (in my limited view). What he does without fail is pull together a great crew and cast and make the mechanics of the film really really good.

    So yes, this is a very well made movie, and it sweeps through upper middle of the country with a kind of schoolboy feel for the icons of the place and time. I wouldn't be so crude as to say it's like a giant (and long) Hallmark card on the surface, but there you have it.

    Martin Sheen is really good in his role as a kind of wannabe James Dean, and Sissy Spacek plays the naive 15 year old a bit too naively, though she has a country-girl innocence that sets up the violence well. Eventually, without giving away much, the two are on the run. And there are a couple of minor turns of events, but really it's a routine tale told better before (see "They Live by Night" for a great one), and told with more honesty.

    The end is important, and hard to talk about without giving anything away. But when you see it you'll see something that was talked about at the time—the glorification of an anti-her, the identification with a mindless and selfish killer. (Al Pacino makes this the whole point in Lumet's "Dog Day Afternoon" two years alter). And here Malick makes it almost laughable and cheesy. And utterly unbelievable, especially for 1960, especially after such a killing spree.

    Yeah, a love hate movie. Looks and feels good, but it lack depth and logic and sincerity, despite it's sincere appearance. The worst mix of things possible.
  • tedg2 January 2002
    Warning: Spoilers
    Spoilers herein.

    I suppose this film is a failure if seen out of its context as one of only three films by Malick. But if you have seen his `Red Line,' then you can discern what was in his mind in this first outing: `Tracing entire sentences on the roof of my mouth that no one can read.'

    At this time, some, led by the French were creating a non-realistic parallel narrative but in the direction of romantic idealism; the Swedes' parallel narrative tended toward archetypical symbolism; Kurosawa, Kubric and others were weaving parallel alternatives, but always targeted. For instance Welles had targeted architectural space in his manifolds.

    Malick had a notion of internal parallel narratives that instead just float -- a thread that hovers over the visible action but does not annotate it. That makes it the center of the film instead of just a stylistic addition. Everything is reversed: the players and story aren't the focus, they just provide some liquid for the chunkier matter of the visual soup. The real features here are disembodied words, ethereal music, unrelated lovely images. The story needs to diminish to the point of a mere shadow of a real movie, the performances to copies of real actors. We are in fact told just who these actors are.

    An example of the anti-idealism is the handling of sex. In an ordinary film, sex would be ridiculously miraculous -- fireworks! Here, the only appearance it makes is a comment on how unremarkable it is.

    This is the earliest instance I know where an auteur deliberately casts an actor that he knows cannot do the job. He doesn't want dimensionally acute verity, so Sheen's dimness is a plus. Spacek is intelligent, here as a 24 year old actress playing a 15 year old by sloughing off any effort at the same self-awareness that Sheen struts. She has problems at the end, because at root her method relies on the investment in character, in this case the very character who throws away all the elements of character.

    Malick is a semiotician finding lucidity in the mechanics of dream incoherence: a philosopher first, filmmaker second. Kubrick was later to adapt Malick's notion by going much beyond: his `Eyes.' has an apparently zen parallel, but falsely so -- it appears to not make sense, but in fact does.
  • In the 1950s, a quiet but quick-thinking young man who postures like James Dean stirs up trouble for a simple teenage girl living with her father; he eventually takes her on a journey across several states by car, leaving dead bodies in their wake. Dreamy, intentionally vacuous (one presumes) debut film from director Terrence Malick, who also wrote the screenplay and served as producer. Although inspired by the Charles Starkweather murder spree, "Badlands" probably bears little resemblance to that actual case. The two main characters played by Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek aren't shaped in the writing: they're blobby malcontents without a plan. There's a surge of excitement in their initial escape, but there isn't even much romance between them. Obviously, this was exactly what Malick intended, but the viewer can't really get a firm grip on this story; it's shapeless and blobby, too. The low-keyed action and (amusingly) droning narration by Spacek (reading the dialogue as if it were from a fortune cookie) makes the whole thing seem like a non-event, and yet the performances are controlled and interesting. We're probably not meant to be moved by either of these two, but Sheen's joshing confrontation with some officers is incredibly bracing, and his acting in general is raw without ever seeming showy or amateurish. The background score (with a theme that sounds like jewelry box music that keeps getting louder and stronger) is evocative and spooky, and the film's ambiance is intriguing. But the loose narrative slips in and out and around what we're seeing, as if there wasn't a proper script, giving the impression the filmmaker was relying strictly on externals. *** from ****
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Badlands is one of the first literate examples of narrated cinema since the early days of Orson Welles and Abraham Polonsky. A teenage girl (Sissy Spacek) and a young garbage collector (Martin Sheen) take to the road, and wander across several states of America on a vengeful murder spree.

    If a film can be defined by its influence, the status of Badlands as a cult classic is deserved. The template of two kids on the run has served any number of subsequent film-makers, who have gazed enviously on its elusive power. Its story is filtered through the feelings of Spacek's Holly, who views Kit's actions as hopelessly romantic; she is blinded by her adolescent crush on him, and the dislocation between her dreamy acquiescence and the horror of the couple's actions lends the film a unique tone, fluctuating between lyricism and jolting reality.
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