A COMPLEX TALE OF EVIL...
Lawyeraau | Balmoral Castle | 02/19/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an amazing directorial debut, as the film works on so many fronts. It is both a love story and a crime drama, with sneak peaks at what makes the two main protagonists tick. It remains for the audience to decide who is the more chilling and disturbed of the two characters, twenty five year old Kit (Martin Sheen) or fifteen year old Holly (Sissy Spacek).This is a film in which two unlikely characters become lovers. Kit, a James Dean-like loser espies the fresh-faced Holly twirling her baton one day and is smitten. He approaches her and, despite her initial reluctance, she begins to see him against her protective father's wishes. Kit is ten years older than Holly, a high school drop out from the wrong side of the tracks, who is unable to maintain a job and appears to have a limited future. He falls in love with Holly and wants her to be his exclusively. Eventually, they become lovers. Holly, a loner who has been raised by her father since her mother died many years ago, lives a middle class, materially comfortable existence. Her father, while he no doubt loves and cares for her, lacks a certain sensitivity. His idea of punishing Holly for disobeying him is to shoot her dog in cold blood. When her fish is dying, his solution is to toss it into the yard while it is still gasping for breath, replacing it with a new fish. Holly's naive, fresh-faced, freckled countenance belies a soul that has atrophied. It is as if Holly were disconnected from her feelings. When Kit tries to talk to the father about his feelings for Holly, he is told in no uncertain terms to hit the road. Kit then decides to leave and take Holly with him. Kit enters Holly's house one day, packing a suitcase of her things in anticipation of their departure, when Holly and her father unexpectedly arrive home. Kit and Holly's father have a confrontation, that ends badly for dear old dad. It is here that the film first signals Holly's detachment as being something other than naivete. Her reaction is mind boggling. It is even more horrific than Kit's reaction. Or is it just shock? You be the judge.They initially live an almost Thoreauesque existence in the woods, living off the land, reading, and spending lots of quality time together, until this, too, begins to pall. Discovery of their idyll by law enforcement officers drives them out, and they begin a chilling killing spree across the Badlands of South Dakota and a life on the lam.While it is Kit who does all the actual killing, it is, to my mind, Holly who is the more complex and frightening character. Her prosaic and banal conversation, as well as a lack of empathy in the most heinous and disturbing of circumstances, is most unsettling. This is reinforced in the film through a voiced-over, almost toneless, detached narration by Holly of the events that took place. It is a masterpiece of point and counterpoint, chilling in its very telling and understated irony. When they are eventually caught, Holly remains impassive, while Kit relishes his celebrity and oozes charm, winning over his captors. Martin Sheen's performance is nothing short of brilliant, while Sissy Spacek is mesmerizing with her ability to chill the viewer.This is an expertly crafted film with an ingenious use of music. The director even manages to utilize the music of Erik Satie (Gymnopedies 3) most effectively, however unlikely it may seem. Like the music of Erik Satie, the film is multi-textured and deceptively complex. Bravo!"
Before the Fall
blockhed | UK | 02/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Kit and Holly are presented in this story by Terrence Malick as total innocents, living in a prelapsarian state, completely unaware of right and wrong, good and evil, and ignorant of guilt or sin. They have minimal conception of the consequences of their actions; in effect, they appear almost totally to lack imagination or foresight, and can barely empathise with each other, let alone other people. Things just happen, as Holly sees it. Kit doesn't feel hostility to the people he kills: they are merely in his way. There is no remorse. He is only marginally conscious that the structured world outside his own will eventually catch up with him. These kids are like Adam and Eve, with a limited knowledge of what is forbidden, but no real knowledge of the meaning of life and death. Holly throws out her sick catfish, showing no feeling. Her dog is shot as a punishment by her father, indicating he, too, is careless of death or pain. Kit stands on a dead cow, as though puzzled by its absence of life. Neither of the two seems to cry or laugh much. In one way these characters might also be thought of as throwbacks to a prehistoric, animalistic past, where the younger man simply eliminates the older, in order to secure a mate for himself. Just the way of nature, and beyond criticism. Apparently, so I've read somewhere, this is the mindset of the criminal, who cannot see what he is doing wrong. He has to get by, somehow, and takes the easiest path. Why work, when you can steal? If obstacles arise, eliminate them. People are OK, otherwise. Live now, die later. This is an extraordinary film, superbly acted."
An unforgettable debut from Terrence Malick
Thomas Baio | Bronx, NY | 11/18/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the best criminal/lovers on the run films to date. As in all of director Malick's films, the music, acting, and photography are all first rate. Malick does not stylize or glorify the violence like too many other films of the same plotting. The violence makes its impact on the viewer without resorting to any exaggerations or excessiveness. What is most striking about the film are its many contrasts with the characters. For example, the characters' alienation is depicted in the shots of lonely desolate landscapes. Many of their spoken thoughts, points of view, and statements are absolutely senseless....just like their killings. Martin Sheen is very chilling as the remorseless and trigger-happy Kit. What also makes Badlands different is that the film does not blame society for the behavior of Kit and Holly (played wonderfully by Sissy Spacek). Powerful, chilling, extremely well done and highly recommended."
Bomojaz | South Central PA, USA | 10/21/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I think this movie goes right to the heart of the philosophical question of what art and artists are supposed to be and do: are they merely to present facts/ideas/personalities/images with no comment, no moralizing, no personal ulterior motives (leaving all those things to the viewer), or do they need to state clearly a moral purpose and certain direction (which the viewer can then accept or reject)?
Martin Sheen is Kit, a garbageman working in South Dakota; he becomes friends with 15-year-old Holly (Sissy Spacek). When her father tells Sheen he doesn't want him near his daughter again, Sheen kills him. The two run off together, living for a while in the woods like two "innocents" of some primitive society. But then they're discovered by three men and Sheen kills them, too.
They now head for Montana, Sheen committing more murders along the way. He is empty inside, nothing fazes him; he imagines he's like James Dean - misunderstood, alienated. But he doesn't have a clue what he should be alienated against, and as far as being misunderstood, he never once gives the least hint there is anything there TO understand. We finish watching the movie feeling as empty as Sheen. I also felt a little angry at Malick's attempt to con me into thinking there is more to Sheen's vapid character than there really is: he truly is just a non-entity who kills half a score of innocent people.
So back to my first paragraph. Malick obviously works from the perspective of the first half of my question posed (a view that became an obsession, I think, with artists, writers, film-makers, etc. beginning in the late 1960s); I tend toward believing the second half. Suum cuique."