It's the late 1950s. Mid-twenty-something Kit is a restless and unfocused young man with a James Dean vibe and swagger which he has heard mentioned about him more than once. Fifteen year old Holly has a somewhat cold relationship with her sign painter father, if only because she is the primary reminder of his wife, who died of pneumonia when Holly was a child. The two meet when Holly and her father move from Texas to the small town where Kit lives, Fort Dupree, South Dakota. They slowly fall in love, something about which she cannot tell her father because of their age difference and Kit coming from the wrong side of the tracks. When he tries to take Holly away with him, Kit, on an impulse, shoots her father dead. After letting the initial emotions of the situation settle down, Holly decides voluntarily to go with Kit, they trying to make it look like they committed suicide in a house fire. But they soon learn that their plan did not work, there being a bounty on their heads. As such,...Written by
The picture was the Closing Night Film of the 11th New York Film Festival in 1973. See more »
At Kit's arrest, the back pockets of his jeans appear to be empty. However, as he walks towards the cops' car something white appears in the rear left pocket of his jeans. See more »
[voice over narration]
My Mother dies of pneumonia when I was just a kid. My Father kept their wedding cake in the freezer for ten whole years. After the funeral he gave it to the yard man. He tried to act cheerful but he could never be consoled by the little stranger he found in his house. Then one day hoping to begin a new life away from the scene of all these memories he moved us from Texas to Port Dupree, South Dakota.
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Kit is a garbage man, Holly just a teenager living with her father. Kit and Holly get together and Holly's father disapproves. Kit kills Holly's father and together they go on the lam and a few others get killed in the proceedings.
This 1973 landmark film was the directorial debut of one Terrence Malick. It's been described by many as one of the most mature debuts in film history. The numbness of Sheen's and Spacek's characters is haunting and makes a very strong point and it's very hard to swallow. Spacek's voice-over, which tells how she experiences life with Kit, is disturbing and yet, poetically beautiful. The sheer innocence of her character, her bright-eyed view of the world, her acceptance of Kit's explanations make a stronger point in the examination of two completely alienated individuals than any other movie I can think of.
Martin Sheen has never been better than here. His Kit, obsessed with James Dean apparently, is one of cinema's coldest villains. His utter detachment in all the proceedings is a wonder to behold. He's completely numb and that's more haunting than any outburst of rage. He's a flawed product of society. He doesn't feel evil, he just doesn't feel anything. Sissy Spacek is also wonderful in her role, giving a very memorable performance as Holly.
Terence Malick's direction is superb. The cinematography by Tak Fujimoto is beautiful, every frame simply looks stunning and he captures the era wonderfully. It's hard to believe this film is over 30 years old. The music is also very good, with a catchy melody which seems to go well the innocence portrayed in Spacek's character. This almost feels like a children's tune.
This film is considered to be loosely based on the real life killing spree committed by Charlie Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate in 1958. Starkweather was executed and up until his last day alive, he said that Caril was just an observer but finally said she was as guilty of the killings as he, even initiating some herself.
Badlands however says in the end credits that the story is fictional.
One of the best films of the 1970's.
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