Badlands (1973)

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Little did I realise that what began in the alleys and back ways of this quiet town would end in the Badlands of Montana.

Terrance Malik directs this crime film about fifteen year old Holly Sargis (Sissy Spacek) who lives in South Dakota with her widowed father (Warren Oates). Her life is changed forever when she meets Kit (Martin Sheen). He is ten years older than her and a rubbish collector. His charm and resemblance to Hollywood actor James Dean makes Holly fall in love with him quickly.

The film is particularly effective with Holly’s voice over narration presenting  her romanticised viewpoint, juxtaposed with Kit’s anti social and often violent behaviour. After Kit shoots Holly’s dad and setting fire to her house the two go on the run to the badlands of Montana…

I first came across this film during first year of undergraduate study, and  it seems like the typical film to watch as a case study to Malick’s cinematic work. Since my first viewing of it  I have been particularly fascinated by the fire scene in some odd way. That shot of the house in flames, a close up of Holly’s dead father. followed by a cut to Holly’s dolls and toys symbolises the loss of Holly’s childhood and all that she has known up until this point accompanied by the haunting soundtrack. Simply haunting..

Overall, this film is generally excellent. However, I do find that the very last part of the film when the couple go on the run from the law rather drawn out and sometimes tiresome. I have also reviewed Malick’s later film The New World (which I also had to watch and analyse last year for another film module) on my blog if anyone wants a read.

I think Sissy Spacek (who also starred in a horror film around the same time called Carrie) did a good job portraying an innocent naive girl who has to basically mature overnight when on the run with Kit. Martin Sheen’s performance is superb as well.

My rating: 4/5

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