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The film has become a classic, partly due to Tak Fujimoto's cinematography and partly due to the detached attitude the couple adopt towards murder. Like Tarantino's later anti-heroes and heroines, Kit and Holly are killers without conscience. Holly's naïve teenage mentality makes her passive attitude seem even more shocking, and her only comment that leads us to believe she has any grasp of the situation is when she mentions that Kit may be a little crazy. Yet there is also an innocent, "young love" side to the couple's actions which the audience cannot fail to feel pity for, greatly helped by the pairing of Sheen and Spacek as well as Malick's gift for drawing the finest and most sensitive performances from his actors.
On the DVD: Badlands has been cleaned up nicely with a 1.85:1 widescreen print and 5.1 surround sound. Although seemingly short of extras the one included on the disc is a real gem: "Absence of Malick" offers insight into this notoriously publicity-shy director from the cast and crew and the reason why he ended up acting in his own movie. --Nikki Disney
This is a film in which two unlikely characters become lovers. Kit, a James Dean-like loser, espies the fresh-faced Holly twirling her baton one day and is smitten. He approaches her and, despite her initial reluctance, she begins to see him against her protective father's wishes. Kit is ten years older than Holly, a high school drop out from the wrong side of the tracks, who is unable to maintain a job and appears to have a limited future. He falls in love with Holly and wants her to be his exclusively. Eventually, they become lovers. While it is Kit who does all the actual killing, it is, to my mind, Holly who is the more complex and frightening character. Her prosaic and banal conversation, as well as a lack of empathy in the most heinous and disturbing of circumstances, is most unsettling. This is reinforced in the film through a voiced-over, almost toneless, detached narration by Holly of the events that took place. It is a masterpiece of point and counterpoint, chilling in its very telling and understated irony. When they are eventually caught, Holly remains impassive, while Kit relishes his celebrity and oozes charm, winning over his captors. Martin Sheen's performance is nothing short of brilliant, while Sissy Spacek is mesmerizing with her ability to chill the viewer.
This is an expertly crafted film with an ingenious use of music. The director even manages to utilize the music of Erik Satie (Gymnopedies 3) most effectively, however unlikely it may seem. Like the music of Erik Satie, the film is multi-textured and deceptively complex. Bravo!
Sissy Spacek and especially Martin Sheen given the performances of their careers. So much is conveyed by the dialogue, sparse though it may be. Every sentence Sheen utters is at once profound, inconsequential, natural and stylised but, above all, engrossing.
The film is beautifully shot and the DVD transfer does justice to the cinematography, giving a sense of the scale of the landscape through which Kit and Holly drive on the run. Sissy Spacek's voice over gives the story a perspective in the way that the commentary in Y Tu Mama Tambien was to do nearly 30 years later.
However, the film's greatest achievement is the soundtrack. The predominance of Carl Orff and Eric Satie seems initally at odds with the setting and subject matter of the film but it complements the uniqueness of Malick's approach and amplifies the visual beauty of the film. And when Kit and Holly dance to Nat King Cole's "The Dream Has Ended", the transience of the young lovers' freedom is all too palpable.
This is a film to return to again and again.
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