Dramatization of the Starkweather-Fugate killing spree of the 1950's, in which a teenage girl and her twenty-something boyfriend slaughtered her entire family and several others in the Dakota badlands.
This review contains spoilers. These however shouldn't hinder your enjoyment of the film in anyway as the film isn't particularly story-led, it fits the saying "It's not the destination, but the journey that counts" to a tee.
Today, Terrence Malick has an almost legendary status. As an auteur he is unprolific - releasing only five films in almost four decades - while as a man he is an enigma, perhaps even cinema's J.D. Salinger. As well as having a famously low output he is a sort of recluse: Malick has not given an interview since 1973, he did not work for twenty years ('78-'98) and at the premiere of his new film The Tree of Life at Cannes the spotlight was focused away from his movements to stop anyone photographing him. The Tree of Life went on to win the coveted Palme d'Or but Malick did not pick up the prize in person.
Malick's first feature, Badlands, featured Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek as a young couple on a cross country killing spree. On its release in 1973 it received critical acclaim and "overshadowing even Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets" at the New York Film Festival. To me it is one of the greatest directorial debuts of all time, on par with Truffaut's The 400 Blows and even comparable with the incomparable - Orson Welles' Citizen Kane. One thing that is consistent in Malick's films is the great performances he gets out of his cast. Martin Sheen, who would go on to have a starring role in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, has named Badlands as his best work and I am inclined to agree.
Badlands is very much a fairy tale with the violence left intact. Kit and Holly are child-like characters who commit heinous acts while on a cross-country adventure. Holly's narration of the film adds to the dream-like quality and allows insights into her thoughts. At one point she muses, "It hit me that I was just this little girl, born in Texas, whose father was a sign painter, who only had just so many years to live. It sent a chill down my spine and I thought where would I be this very moment, if Kit had never met me?" Later in the film, she contrasts this statement, like a child bored of its toy.
The soundtrack is very interesting and perfectly compliments the tone of the film. Orff's Gassenhauer is not something you would expect to hear as the theme of a film where the main characters go on a killing spree but it works. It works because Kit and more importantly Holly don't show remorse for their crimes and even the film itself doesn't condemn them. Holly realised early in the film that she had no meaningful existence prior to Kit and yet later discards him out of boredom. The film is interspersed with nature, including a period when Kit and Holly live in a forest evoking children's classics such as Tarzan and The Jungle Book (again this emphasises their primitive, child-like psyche). The main character in this film is not Kit or Holly but rather the natural world itself. Malick's message is that individual life is meaningless but life should also be loved and respected. This may seem contradictory at first but as The Lion King so eloquently put it the film is concerned with the bigger picture - the circle of life.
I strongly recommend this film to anyone who considers themselves to be a lover of film, even those who didn't like Malick's most recent outings such as The Tree of Life. This film is Malick at his best and not entirely coincidentally, his most accessible. This film is Malick before the withdrawal from public life and audience-alienating unconventional narratives but, even at this early stage of his career, his beautiful visual sense was apparent and he had the ability to extract landmark performances from his cast.
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A garbage collector (Martin Sheen) and his impressionable girlfriend (Sissy Spacek) kill her father when he disapproves of their relationship, and embark on a homicidal trail of destruction across the Midwestern United States. Based on the true case of Starkweather and Fugate in the 1950s, Terrence Malick's directorial debut has influenced many subsequent writers and directors - notably Quentin Tarantino whose screenplays for 'True Romance' and 'Natural Born Killers' owe 'Badlands' an obvious debt.
Please note this is a region 2 DVD and will require a region 2 (Europe) or region Free DVD Player in order to play. In 1959, Kit (Martin Sheen), who has killed several people, and his new girlfriend Holly (Sissy Spacek), who watched him do it, are adrift in a double fantasy of crime and punishment across South Dakota and Montana. They're playing make-believe but the bullets and bloodshed are very real. The first of writer/director Terrence Malick's three landmark films (1978's 'Days of Heaven' and 1998's 'The Thin Red Line' are the others) was inspired by a real life 1958 Midwestern killing spree. Malick imaginatively transforms their story into a provocative study of people alienated from everyday life, but fascinating to us. Beautifully shot and memorably acted, 'Badlands' is a spellbinding journey. 'The Absence Of Malick' featurette: a look at 'Badlands' with Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek and other members of the crew Theatrical trailers Interactive menu Scene access Actors Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates, Ramon Bieri, Alan Vint & Gary Littlejohn Director Terrence Malick Certificate 18 years and over Year 1973 Screen Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic Languages English - Dolby Digital (5.1) Subtitles English ; English for the hearing impaired ; French ; Italian ; Italian for the hearing impaired ; Spanish ; German ; Dutch ; Arabic ; Portuguese ; Romanian ; Bulgarian Duration 1 hour and 30 minutes (approx)