Badlands, Sissy Spacek

Written by Joe D on May 13th, 2011

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Well I went to Badlands, I was able to get out of work on time and rushed over to LACMA, they’re screening all of Malick’s work, sort of a build up to the release of Tree Of Life. It was pretty amazing to watch the film on 35mm with a large audience, it made me feel like I was at the 11th New York Film Festival where Badlands premiered. It was a beautiful print and the use of natural light was stunning, I can understand when Sissy said the shoot went on longer than planned, if you want to get those magic hour shots, it takes time, you barely have an hour each day.

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Sissy spoke after the screening and was really gracious and beautiful. Such a natural performance, she was the first person cast and spent a lot of time with Malick before they began shooting, when he found out she was a baton twirler he put that in the script, Sissy described walking down to Hollywood Blvd. from Malick’s house to buy a baton after their first meeting. I asked her about the voice over in the film, was it scripted before they shot? She said Malick had two versions of the script, one for investors and one for shooting and a lot of the VO was present in the shooting script. She also told of recording the VO in Malick’s bedroom after he nailed up a lot of blankets on the walls.  I still think it is one of the best uses of voice over ever done. As I said everytime you watch this film you pick up on different ideas, themes, etc. This time I was struck by the idea of Heaven and Earth, the characters are always trying to get to Heaven, sending their dreams up in a balloon, standing in a field with a full moon prominent in the frame, like you can reach out and touch it, living in nature away from civilization.

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Their quest for happiness, love, that elevates them then disappears like smoke from between their fingers, Earthly existence in a nutshell. Malick said that a gun was like a magic wand to Kit Carruthers, it could make his troubles (in the form of other people) disappear. But isn’t this the legacy of the Western? Solve your problems by letting some daylight through an adversary, blasting them with a Colt 45 or a Winchester. Another thing I noticed at this screening was how the end of the film reminded me opf the begining of Reifenstahl’s Triumph Of The Will.  Hitler appears in the clouds like a god descending from Olympus, the airplane lands and he gets out the god who fell to Earth. The reverse is Badlands, the serial killer exalted to a Movie Star (contemporary god level) . “I’ll kiss your ass if he don’t look like James Dean.” Elevated in an airplane to the cloudscapes of Heaven, two sociopaths raised on high by mechanical means, contemporary Deii Ex Machinae.

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