Friday, 2 May 2014

Badlands (1973) 70's Marathon 12#

Directed by: Terrence Mallick
Crime, Drama, Romance
94 Minutes


Terrence Malick has one of the most interesting careers in filmmaking, with only 5 feature films to his directorial name in 4 decades. Badlands is his first feature film, and what a debut it is. Badlands is audacious in its story and character, exploring the mentality of Kit (Martin Sheen) and the impressionable Holly (Sissy Spacek). Rarely does a film show murders and killings without any real meaning or motive, and here Malick makes us look at the psychopathic nature of Kit as the story unfolds. Badlands is truly one of the greats from the 70’s, but the emotional void is off-putting to an extent.

The thing that really struck me was the extraordinary chemistry and performances of both Sheen and Spacek. Sheen’s expression constantly looks passive, and in his eyes you can see a kind of emptiness. Spacek’s innocent and impressionable character seems not to grasp the gravity of the crime. The lacking of morals is the core to this film. Both of them on their journey make excuses for the murdering that takes place. I would quote, but I do not want to spoil the film for anyone. However, with the lack of morality in mind that to me is what stops this film from being truly great. I could not make a real emotional connection with either of the characters. Intentional and interesting, but the fact Holly falls under Kit's influence so easily seems unbelievable. Both characters feel nothing- especially not remorse. A daring filmmaking approach from Mallick surely.

The mentality of Kit and Holly are that of a child. Despite Holly being 15 and Kit being 25, the pair of them seem like they are role playing, and have no real sense of reality. They stop and make a home out of branches, trees and sticks almost like kids making a tree house. The age gap comes as a shock at first, but early in the film Holly in voice over informs us Kit was never looking for sex- although we see them kissing, it seems Kit is uninterested in sex- again showing his childlike mentality.

For those who have seen other Malick films, such as his most recent The Tree of Life (2011) his use of cinematography truly shines. The vast lands of South Dakoda where shot so beautifully. One shot we see Kit staring out at the emptiness- a very symbolic shot showing how Kit feels in this world- isolated and empty. The film is beautifully shot, and really takes you into the journey Kit and Holly go on. This film should become richer on repeat viewings, and is likely to be a timeless story- and that is what a classic film is.





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