Film Analysis of Malick's Badlands (1973) Essays

Film Analysis of Malick's Badlands (1973) Essays

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The reclusive film director Terrence Malick has to date, only directed a small number of films. His twenty year hiatus between directing Days of Heaven (1978) and The Thin Red Line (1998), may provide the explanation for such a sparse back catalogue. Malick’s refusal to talk with the media, has led to hearsay, as to how he occupied his time during the hiatus. Malick’s directing debut Badlands (1973) is a collection of concepts, all carefully moulded together to create one iconic piece of film. This process draws in and also alienates the audience. Malick’s style is positively noted by critics to be influenced by European philosophy. This is clearly due to Malick’s study of philosophy at Harvard and Magdalen College Oxford. There is no given explanation to the mindless violence featured within the film, mainly due to the films resistance to the straight forward approach. The familiar and the unknown are carefully merged together. The only way of gaining an understanding into the hidden meanings within Badlands is by breaking down the film, by looking at the characters, the use of sound, the visual setting and the films genre. The illusionary effect of Malick’s style means that all is not as it seems.
The films protagonists Kit Caruthers (Martin Sheen) and Holly (Sissy Spacek) are loosely based on the real life adolescent criminals Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate. Starkweather and Fugate become infamous after their murder spree through Nebraska and Wyoming in the 1950’s, however the story of two young fugitives in love is not one that is unfamiliar with audiences; the most notable is Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967). The character of Kit also bears a resemblance to Jim Stark, James Dean’s character i...

... middle of paper ...

...ames Dean. Available at: (Accessed 19/12/2010)

Film reference: Badlands. Available at (Accessed 19/12/2010)

Absence of Malick (2003) Dir. David Gregory [DVD]. USA: Warner Home Video.
Badlands (1973) Dir. Terrence Malick [DVD]. California: Warner Home Video.

Elizabeth Weis, John Belton (1985) Theory and Practice Film Sound, New York: Columbia University Press, pp 346.
Hannah Patterson (2007) The cinema of Terrence Malick: poetic visions of America, London: Wallflower Press, pp 6.
John Gibbs and Douglas Pye (2005) Style and meaning : studies in the detailed analysis of film. Engalnd: Manchester University Press, pp 42-52.
Lloyd Michaels (2009) Terrence Malick, New York: University of Illinois Press.

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