Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Badlands ★★★★

Image result for Badlands film title shot

    Her name is Holly--a fifteen-year-old, Texas-born, innocent young girl. His name is Kit--a mid-twenties, James Dean imitation, hellbent type. These are the central characters that Terrence Malick chooses to build his world around in "Badlands" his 1973 debut film. This picture is a fictional tale, which is loosely based on the events of the Charles Starkweather/ Caril Fugate  murder spree. There are many similar details to the real life events; however, you will have to connect the dots for yourself.

    We are introduced to these characters through a nostalgic setting in the Midwestern town of Fort Dupree, South Dakota. The opening scene sets the blueprint for the entire picture with its beautiful voice-over work (spoken by Sissy Spacek) and its haunting musical scores.

    Holly's ingenuous life revolves around school, music lessons, and baton twirling--until one fateful day--when she meets Kit Carruthers played by Martin Sheen. Kit is a local garbage man who, after leaving his work route a little early, stumbles upon the young Holly while she plays in her front yard.

    They begin an effortless (and rather instinctive) relationship that is brilliantly displayed on-screen with images of Holly running to Kit's car or waiting for him at the setting of a high school football practice; it is a relationship rooted in loneliness and detachment. Kit loves Holly for her innocence and guiltlessness, and perhaps she reminds him of a simpler time in his life.

    The acting in this film is quite exquisite. Sheen and Spacek, in their most prominent roles to date, display a wonderful chemistry with each other and with the surrounding environment these characters inhabit. They bring these unique characters to life in a way that most actors could never dream of doing: By dissolving their own personalities into these lost individuals, these actors make the character their own. It is truly a shame that neither got the recognition they deserved. Sheen is exceptionally radiant in many particular scenes and moments. (This includes a reserved discussion with Holly's father and a scene of quiet anger after one of the murders.) Spacek's voice-overs fuel this film and beautifully accentuate Malick's poetic words and imagery.

    Of course, we must also give credit where credit is due. Terrence Malick is the artist here, and Sheen and Spacek are nothing more than colors on his palette. In his cinematic debut, Malick takes everything we have seen in the medium of film up to this point and adds his own special ingredient: Nostalgia. Personally, it is my conviction that this is one of the most underrated emotions in the art of film. Whether it is a certain shot or a string of shots, this emotion is present in all of Malick's pictures. His direction and cinematography are simply impeccable.

    Considering the fact that Malick is a known perfectionist, and that he takes his time to properly edit his work, we should not be surprised by the remarkable outcome. The sequence of shots in the chapter entitled "Grand Love," a progression in which Holly and Kit begin to develop their feelings for one another, are some of the most beautiful shots I have ever witnessed. In addition, the scenes of Holly and Kit in the wilderness prove to me that Malick is at his best in nature. Malick also has a small acting role in this film, which you may not even notice unless you have seen a picture of the reclusive filmmaker.

    This is a picture that will change your perspective on film and direction. The director is the nucleus when it comes to making a brilliant film. If the direction is terrific, then ninety-nine percent of the time, the picture will speak of this notion. Film consists of more than just a plot, a setting, and a set number of characters. I am a true believer that the five senses must also be intrigued.

    Obviously, you will not be able to touch, smell, or taste a film; however, in a figurative sense, you must be transported out of the norm--thrown into a world of pleasure, excitement, and wonder. Emotions must be toyed with. This film is nothing short of a joy to watch and an even greater delight to critique. Every four-star film will leave you with these feelings and Malick's "Badlands" exceeds in all facets.

    "Takes all kinds."

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