BADLANDS - Film (Movie) Plot and Review




USA, 1973


Director: Terrence Malick

Production: Pressman-Williams Enterprises; CFIC colour, 35mm; running time: 94 minutes.

Badlands
Badlands

Producer: Terrence Malick; executive producer: Edward R. Pressman; screenplay: Terrence Malick; assistant directors: John Broderick, Carl Olsen; photography: Tak Fujimoto, Brian Probyn, Stevan Larner; editor: Robert Estrin; associate editor: William Weber; art directors: Jack Fisk, Ed Richardson; sound editor: James Nelson; music: George A. Tipton; costumes: Rosanna Norton.


Cast: Martin Sheen ( Kit Carruthers ); Sissy Spacek ( Holly ); Warren Oates ( Holly's Father ); Ramon Bieri ( Cato ); Alan Vint ( Deputy ); Gary Littlejohn ( Sheriff ); John Carter ( Rich Man ); Bryan Montgomery ( Boy ); Gail Threlkeld ( Girl ).


Publications


Books:

Thompson, D.K, in Magill's Survey of Cinema, Second Series, vol.1 edited by Frank Magill, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1981.

Peary, Danny, Cult Movies , New York, 1981.

Williams, Mark, Road Movies , New York, 1982.


Articles:

Variety (New York), 10 October 1973.

Monaco, J., Take One (Montreal), January 1974.

Buckley, M., Films in Review (New York), April 1974.

Johnson, William, Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Spring 1974.

Kinder, Marsha, "The Return of the Outlaw Couple," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Summer 1974.

King, M., "Badlands; shoot first. . ." in Jump Cut (Chicago), May-June 1974.

Rosenbaum, J., Monthly Film Bulletin (London), November 1974.

Gow, G., Films and Filming (London), December 1974.

Combs, R., Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1974–75.

Walker, B., "Malick on Badlands" in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1975.

Ciment, Michel, "Entretien avec Terrence Malick" in Positif (Paris), June 1975.

Sineux, M., "Un cauchemar de douceur" in Positif (Paris), June 1975.

Martin, M., Ecran 75 (Paris), July-August 1975.

Rabourdin, D., Cinéma (Paris), July-August 1975.

Béhar, H., "La ballade sauvage" in Image et Son (Paris), September 1975.

Henderson, B., "Exploring Badlands" in Wide Angle (Baltimore), 1983.

Mooney, J. "Martin Sheen in Badlands ," Movieline (Escondido, California), vol. 6, December 1994.

Stein, Michael Eric, "The New Violence or Twenty Years of Violence in Films: An Appreciation," Films in Review (New York), vol. 46, January/February 1995.


* * *

Twenty-eight year old Terrence Malick's sublime debut as writer/producer/director of Badlands , has endured through time to foster admiration from, and satisfaction for, the spectator, as it did upon its release in 1973. Perhaps Malick's career as a philosophy teacher before entering filmmaking provided a foundation to the clarity of his vision in this work.

Kit Carruthers (Martin Sheen), a garbage collector, meets Holly Sargis (Sissy Spacek) as he walks past her front lawn. She is practicing baton twirling and is charmed by his apparent worldliness. The banal cynicism of the midwest setting and the sleepy pace are disrupted as Kit murders Holly's father because he disapproves of their relationship.

This is the beginning of Kit's killing spree from South Dakota to finally, the badlands of Montana. Kit ultimately surrenders to the authorities, basking in their admiration of him and his legendary wild man status. Holly has realized that she no longer wants to be around the "hell bent type anymore," and has abandoned Kit just prior to his arrest.

Both repellent and magnetic, Malick draws us into the world of Kit, whose subsequent violent journey is intoned through the sporadic ethereal narration of Holly.

Through the brilliantly droll script we become disassociated from Kit's violence and rather, feel sympathy for the dysfunctional protagonist. This reflects Holly's own journey with Kit and her observation at one point, "The world seemed like a faraway planet." From Holly's father's attempts to keep her away from Kit—"He said if the piano didn't keep me off the streets maybe the clarinet would"—to Holly's reaction to sex—"Gosh, what was everyone talkin' about?"— Malick's writing shines throughout. On second or third viewing of this film the dialogue seems to increase in its hilarity and enunciates Kits and Holly's childlike naivety and stupidity.

Although Malick used three photographers, all with diverse filmic backgrounds, there remains visual fluidity and continuity throughout Badlands . The visual style achieves harmony with the emotional framework, objective, yet intensely intimate. George Tipton's score, with its fairground music quality, reinforces the innocence of the piece whilst underpinning the malevolence of Kit.

Badlands is a masterful work and fully deserves the many accolades that have been awarded to it.

—Marion Pilowsky

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