Badlands (1973)

Badlands (1973), written, produced and directed by Terrence Malick.

Cast your mind back to adolescence. Little bit crazy, were you? Afraid you might launch off into some extreme bad behavior? But you were in love, awkward but pure. Until it ended.

That's the story of Kit and Holly, if you throw in the extra craziness that lets them casually murder a whole string of family, friends and strangers, and then camp out in the woods in a survivalist compound that combines Gilligan's Island with Lost.

Even her father (the great Warren Oates) is crazy: he shoots her dog to punish her!

Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek are young, fresh and convincing. Just guessing, but I suspect the director did not rely on storyboards: there seem to be many scenes found during the shoot, maybe bits of improvisation.

Spacek had only a brief ingenue period before developing her exotic look, but she is improbably cute in little white shorts here.

After first sex:


Holly: Did it go the way it's supposed to?

Kit: Yeah.

Holly: Is that all there is to it?

Kit: Yep.

Holly: Gosh, what was everybody talkin' about?

Kit: Don't ask me.

Holly: Well, I'm glad it's over. For a while I was afraid I might die before it happened. Had a wreck or some deal like that.

I love her dim, romantically overblown diary narration.

Ironic twist: when finally captured, Kit and the police are similar people. They like each other in the end.

The score, using bits of Carl Orff, is initially childlike, becoming darker and psychotic as the story changes but the characters don't.

Malick's first film, begun when he was a student. The story is suggested by the history of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate in 1958. Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers is an absurd treatment of the same material, much less watchable than Badlands.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion. Excellent natural color.