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
This motion picture production employed a non-union crew to make the movie. See more »
The piano keyboard and music sheets are soaked in gasoline, but they're still intact when the fire is shown. See more »
[voice over narration]
My Mother died 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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"If I could sing a song about the way I feel right now... it'd be a hit."
Badlands is a dark 1970s existential road oddity through the Badlands of the midwest with fugitive Kit and his 15 crush Holly. The story, which is set in the 1950s, seems to exist in a fairytale, and this element is one of the reasons I love this film. The film is mostly spoken through the internal monologue of Holly, delivering the film as a tale or fable. She encounters a war veteran who collects garbage, a man with images of grandeur, who has nothing to live for and nothing to lose. When the two social misfits hit it off, her protective father disapproves and kills her dog, bags it and dumps it into the river as punishment; a rather drastic measure. It does go some way to explain why Holly, who we must remember is 15, seems to be benevolent to the actions of Kit when he starts to murder people who pose a threat to Holly and their survival. Both father and lover seem to resort to vicious, violent acts to protect her. He naivete does not survive the whole film though, as she tires of their time on the road, she dreams of the man she will marry, what he looks like, and where he might be right now.
While it is important to note that the film was inspired by the real-life serial killer Charles Starkweather and his lover-or captive-Caril Fugate', one should not assume the script is a retelling of their story. Malick does not reference them in the movie, and it must be said Charles Starkweather's story was more horrific in every detail. Badlands is more a coming of age story for Holly, a fall from grace for Kit, and the fairytale they lived in the moments in between.
I must admit that I adore the dialogue from this film, the subtle interactions, often littered with dark humour, and an air of altruism fill the film with a poetry that is complemented by the exquisite imagery of the Badlands, nature and the most incredible shot of Martin Sheen holding his rifle over this shoulder as the sun sets. The soundtrack further accents the mood of the film, bringing the entire atmosphere to one that envelopes you.
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