Ranjan Recommends: Terrance Malik's Badlands(1973)
It’s the 1950s. A young garbage collector falls in love with a 16-year-old girl somewhere in the Midwest, kills her father who is opposed to their affair and takes off with her. Hereafter, he has to negotiate the consequences as he runs across the country with her, killing people at will as a paranoid nation waits with bated breath for his next move... The template is obvious; we have seen Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Gun Crazy (1950) before this, but what sets this film apart is the total lack of a moral compass or any attempt at psychological explanations. There is nothing in the runaway couple that could earn our empathy – and that is the most disturbing part of BADLANDS (1973). The stunning cinematography evokes poetry out of the vast landscapes that stand in stark contrast to the evil that casts its long shadow over the plains. Martin Sheen’s casual demeanor
acts as a counterpoint to his manic self that accentuates the horror of the suddenness of his actions; while Sissy Spacek as a small-town girl in awe of her boyfriend leaves us dumbstruck by her stupidity – but it is she who eventually provides the grace. A dazzling debut by Terrence Malick. Try to look up the film; it’s not playing on any OTT platform, unfortunately.