Badlands review

:. Director: Terrence Mallick
:. Starring: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek
:. Running Time: 1:34
:. Year: 1973
:. Country:USA


Made in 1973, Badlands is the first film of Terrence Malick, director of The Thin Red Line.

Badlands retraces the bloody odyssey of a lost young couple in the heart of America's Midwest. Remind you of anything? We'll get to that part later.

The two young actors with the titile roles have since proved themselves. Martin Sheen, recognized for Apocalypse Now and considered the most unfortunate father of Hollywood (his offspring includes the talented Charlie Sheen & Emilio Estivez) here interprets a young garbage collector without a future, an average guy for whom the notions of good and evil are blurred. His 15 year old companion, introverted and unfeeling, is played by Sissy Spacek (Carrie must regret not having invited the production team of The Rage, Carrie 2 to the prom).

Though the film contains some violent scenes, it's principally centered on the relationship between the two protagonists and their wandering between good and bad. But, as Malick has us accustomed with The Thin Red Line, the allegories, the natural elements and the poetry replace the overly chatty dialogues by instead scattering clues that each one must find. Instead of using war as he did in his last film, this time it's boredom and life without a future that are the catalysts pushing man to confront his destiny.

The cinematography is colorful, a sort of Fauvist landscape losing itself in the infinity of the desert lands, the Badlands of the Midwest. The cinematography (the same team that also collaborated on The Thin Red Line) is very artistic, reinforcing the impact of silence and large strecht of land where man becomes solely responsible for his acts. He then possesses a total liberty, which he acquires, by creating a new society (as in the Robinson Crusoe sequence in the forest). This way he can commit acts acceptable in the world he creates, but not in ours, the "real one".

Returning for a moment to this strange ressemblance with Natural Born Killers. Though the film by Oliver Stone has several scenes identical to Terrence Malick's film, one could argue that both are taken from the same news story. But the trouble is that Natural Born Killers awkwardly tries to use allegories (in the form of cartoons), just like Badlands, which forces us to question the honesty of Oliver Stone's movie. A simple carbon copy? You be the judge..

Let yourself be guided for this trip to the heart of the "badlands" and the limits of man.

  Fred Thom

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