15 September 2010
BADLANDS (Dir. Terrence Malick, 1973, US) - 'He said that if the devil came at me, I'd shoot him with a gun...'
Malick’s directorial debut is one of those rare films that gets better with each viewing. Whilst much of his work has been situated in a wider intellectual realm offering critics the chance for authorial excavation, it is Malick’s enigmatic figure that seems to offer one of the most intriguing director-studio relationships. Comparisons with Kubrick are perhaps a little obvious but it is evident from Malick’s body of work so far that he is a film maker who uses cinema as an extension of literary ambitions. Foremost, Malick’s eye has remained non judgemental in its depiction of the hidden world and whilst many of his characters are as equally enigmatic as the director, the hypnotically elliptical narratives he has developed in many of his films holds a pertinent literary hold over the spectator. I have seen Badlands on a number of occasions now and whilst Kit’s (Martin Sheen) pathological intentions are somewhat explored and accounted for, it is Holly (Sissy Spacek), the curious passenger taken along for the ride who seems to control our reading of the narrative. Though Holly never participates in any of the brutal violence instigated by Kit, we are never quite sure if Holly is simply a mirror image of Kit or if she secretly procures a degree of pleasure from the killings. If Kit’s personality is murderously pathological, borne out of an innate post war boredom, compared to the mysterious blankness of Holly, it is undeniably a personality that one can explain away as part of wider American mythology. Badlands is the perfect American poem complete with transcendental qualities.