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a fairy tale about lovers-on-the-run that are told with such whimsical tone, badlands is a sublime debut feature from terrence malick.
loosely adapted from the real life murder spree of charles starkweather and caril ann fugate, badlands made no attempt to delve into or explain psychologically of kit and hollys murder spree. it only shares superficial similarities with the actual events. this movie is only a mere observation of this pair of lover that unpassionately kills out of necessity.
hollys state of mind, for most of the time can only be inferred through her monotonous schoolgirl diary-like voiceover. otherwise shes an enigma, looking at the victim with giddiness in her tone. martin sheens kit has obsession over james dean which went so far that he even adopt his mannerisms. kit lacks a substantial identity and he marks the important moments of his life with pile of rocks. together these both are on a self-destructive journey, causing senseless chaos along their journey when they are not resting in the woods.
sissy spaceks command over her performance as a meekly yet deeply unsettling teenage figure is so well done. her calm demeanour when witnessing the first murder (with a very brief anger outburst), passively reacting to the events surrounding her, holly does not operate on any human reasoning nor recognisable motivations. sissy spaceks delightfully creepy acting skill in her first lead role coupled with the voiceover really elevate the character on screen.
badlands is so fascinating in a way that it is perhaps one of the most detached and coldest antihero movie, the chemistry between them only exists before the menacing, and as they set off the hot air balloon that carries trinkets of theirs, it drifts further and further away from them and from the screen, eventually overwhelmed by the impressive visuals of nature captured in this film. even the rock may topple someday.
terrence malicks enigmatic take on this destructive young couple draw huge contrast from bonnie and clyde, it is a crime movie, a road movie, but in the end badlands is an adventure movie between the naïve holly and trigger-happy kit. that little tune is forever stuck in my head, how childlike it is!
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