Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pantheon movie of the month - BADLANDS - Such things I do

Terrence Malick makes movies that look so beautiful and feel so intense, they're heartbreaking. His first feature, BADLANDS, may be the least intricate of his films, but it's also one of the most memorable thanks to the evocative use of an orchestral motif from Orff and a pair of truly brilliant and disturbing performances from Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen. Spacek plays Holly, a bland-looking, introverted teenage girl who lives with her dad in dull, dusty South Dakota. She meets, Kit, a 25 year old handsome rebel, in the style of James Dean. She thinks he's dreamy. He recognises in her the desperation and vacuousness that will make her a perfect audience for his self-deluding grandeur. For Kit dreams of being a romantic hero, just as Holly dreams of being swept off her feet in romance. For no reason other than to kick up a melodrama, Kit takes Holly on a killing spree, starting first with her protective, worried father. He wants glory - even if its notoriety. He wants the place where he's been captured to be famous. Their journey takes them into the psychological badlands - arid scrubland with isolated ranches where a friendly farmer can be shot in cold blood. The isolation of Holly and Kit is physical and psychological. He may be a reckless kid with a gun - a narcissist with a death-wish, but as the movie unfolds it's Holly who's the more disturbing. She watches Kit kill people with a moral detachment that is far more eery than his activity. She doesn't want or feel anything. Indeed, unlike Bonnie and Clyde, these kids aren't even sexually involved.

The resulting film is brilliantly slippery. It simulatenously presents us with the romantic vision of the two lovers on the run from the law, and the reality of two psychopaths, together alone.

BADLANDS played Venice 1975. Bizarrely it didn't win any awards to speak of and isn't in the IMDB Top 250.

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