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Badlands (1973), #77 out of 100

April 5, 2012

Famous auteur Terrence Malick’s debut feature, Badlands is easy to distinguish from the remainder of his career as the most decidedly plot-driven and least elliptical film, still not entirely defining the poetic style that he’s famous for, but regardless it carries an immense amount of elegance in its earthy depiction of lovers on the lam in rural America. A young middle American couple in the 50’s, teenager Holly takes up with young garbageman Kit, a relationship that her father opposes and their dispute leads up to Kit shooting him. Unfazed by the events, the couple burn the father’s house down and flee for greener pastures together, but only figuratively as their flight from the police merely leads to further exile and compromising situations with other people in country landscapes.

Holly narrates the story with a naively poetic voiceover which further cements her and Kit as an oddly regular and even mundane couple, quietly pushed into extreme circumstances by chance that they modestly accept in order to stay together. Tickled but not really touched by the fame they accrue as cross-country murderers due to Kit’s fight-and-flight response to getting caught, Holly barely registers how they’ve been set apart from the average pair of Americans. Instead it’s the restless and agitated Kit, plainly honest in his companionship with Holly but quickly riled by the remainder of humanity, that stands as the outsider being hunted by the world. Upon their adventure reaching an end, one of the regular people that Kit struggles so much to define himself apart from responds to his eccentricities with the simple observation “You’re quite an individual.” In an oppressively vast setting where his possibilities could only stretch so far, perhaps that recognition is what Kit was striving for all along.

From → Top 100

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