The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and a group of psychopathic criminals who have kidnapped her child.
A small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.
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
Badlands (1973) received a place in the film reference book "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die". See more »
The passenger train that passes Kit and Holly on the trestle is pulling Amtrak cars. Amtrak was not established until 1971, and this film takes place in 1959. 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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While the end credits were rolling I noticed an on screen disclaimer along the lines of " All the characters and situations are fictional and any relation between the events depicted in this film is entirely coincidental " which had me scratching my head because whenever I read about Terence Malik's BADLANDS I'm told that it's based on a true story about two teenage lovers who went on a killing spree in 1950s America . Thank you very much IMDb for pointing out via the trivia section and other reviewers comments as to why the producers suddenly wanted everyone to think that this is not intended as a true story . I'm sure it would have been impossible to make anti heroes out of the true life protagonists
As it stands Kit and Holly are portrayed as two amoral children living out a childhood wish fulfillment . They kill someone and then spend a long period of time living out in the woods . It's almost like these childhood fantasies we have when we're younger how wonderful it would be if we could just escape from a world of industrialization and adults and just do whatever the hell we wanted with no interference and the point is hammered home when Kit builds a tree house out in the woods . Who but a child has ambitions to spend their life in a tree house ? However I find myself asking myself how this would be possible , is it likely that two teenagers wanted for murder , who have no probable experience of rural life and who both smoke cigarettes being to live off the land without having to buy groceries or go into town ? I could have accepted this if it stuck to a true story but not if it's been heavily fictionalised . Likewise we really don't find out the motivation behind the killing spree , Kit and Holly ( Well Kit since Holly is portrayed as being a bystander of sorts ) allow some people to live and some people to die without any rhyme or reason to it . Come to think of it perhaps the reason BADLANDS is so well regarded is because it's supposedly based on a true story . If you start looking upon it as a made up story it seems shallow and unimpressive for the most part doesn't it ?
Not to be negative this is a good debut by director Terance Malik who manages to bring out two very good performances from the then fairly unknown Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen . Remember I said something about childhood wish fulfillment ? that's exactly how Spacek and Sheen play their roles - As two children with misguided views on the world in general and love in particular . It's as if Kit and Holly are unaware of what consequence is , which again seems like a child's mentality would be . I also couldn't help noticing that Malik seems to have a great love of nature with shots of wild life and glorious and beautiful sun sets filling the screen , something he used in his later masterwork of THE THIN RED LINE which made me ask myself if Malik is a member of Greenpeace ? Perhaps not since he's an auteur who seems to know that while there's great beauty in nature there's also great cruelty present too
A good though perhaps not great example of cinema from the 1970s when amorality was all the rage
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