Last Featured: April 4, 2016
In the spirit of Bonnie and Clyde, Badlands marries the theme of reckless young love with the thrill of the fugitive life. Together, Kit and Holly are like fire and gasoline, wantonly destroying everything in their path.
There are some directors who, even in their first filmmaking ventures, are able to establish a unique style that they’ll revisit and revise throughout their careers. Terrence Malick’s Badlands, now released more than forty years ago, offers an early example of Malick’s commitment to startling, picturesque cinema.
In the spirit of crime-spree romances like Bonnie and Clyde, Badlands marries the theme of reckless young love with the thrill of the fugitive life. In one of her first major roles, Sissy Spacek is the vulnerable yet stubborn girl Holly, who falls for a sociopathic garbage collector named Kit, played with frank coolness by Martin Sheen. Together, they are like fire and gasoline, wantonly destroying everything in their path as they run from the law across the upper Midwest.
“Nostalgia is a powerful feeling,” Malick said when asked how he approached the film’s 1950s setting. “It can drown out anything. I wanted the picture to set up like a fairy tale, outside time.” Though there are certainly markers of the past throughout the film—the Cadillac they steal is finned and regal, and Holly’s father paints billboards by hand—we get the sense that this is a story that has happened before and could happen again.