william steig drawing

May 17, 2010
Kartina Richardson


Malick, you son of a bitch. If you’re only going to make 1 film every 500 years, at least make them crappy so I’m not thirsting for more.

In every way, shape and form, Malick’s 1973 film Badlands is a perfect dream.

Everything is magical about the film. Nothing fits. Everything is a tad off (things that are a little “off” are inherently magical you know):

The strange dialogue (Kit and Holly make childlike observations about simple things. This intensifies the surreality of the two. They are more than surreal, almost omnipotent in some way. As insane as he is, Kit seems to have a greater awareness of the world. Nothing slips by him),

The dream-like photography (Malick, you slay me with the magic hour. Tak Fujimoto this seems to be your first feature film as a DP. I say start of with a bang and then do Ferris Bueller’s Day Off),

The music (Gassenhauer from Carl Orff’s Schulwerk was also the music of choice in True Romance which of course was heavily influenced by our beloved Badlands),

Martin Sheen’s hair,

And Sissy Spacek, the strangest looking lady ever. Are her eyes clear? They look like they are pale yellow. Her entire being seems on the verge of existence. She is always barely there. If you blink, she might disappear forever. This is why she was particularly great in Robert Altman’s 3 Women.

I’ll tell you why it’s magical. Kit and Holly have no regard for their reality. Or maybe they care deeply about their reality, which is to have no reality. The murders and the plot itself become almost irrelevant. It is about the magic.

Kit & Holly have no real routine. No schedule. No responsibilities. There is nothing to remind them of time. As such there is nothing to remind them of  their mortality. Yes, Kit sleeps with a gun, and devises traps to foil the police, but it all feels like part of a game. It isn’t a real fear of death or being caught by the police. They live in a tree house. Like Peter Pan. Like Lost Boys. They exist above us all. They have created their own timeless, magical world in which nothing and no one exists except themselves and one another.  This is why Kit loves spontaneity. He moves with time, and so in some convoluted way it seems as though he has more control over it. When we are moving, when we are spontaneous, time no longer matters. Sit down and don’t do anything for 10 minutes. You see? All there is is time now.

Go stand in the corner.

You have probably never stood in any corner of the room you’re in for who goes around standing in corners? It’s a strange feeling. To realize you’ve never been in that corner of your room, never seen your room from exactly that spot. It opens little boxes of life that we’ve packed away and forgotten. It is a tiny ripple in your reality. It is freeing. This is the closest thing we have to magic. That’s right. Standing in the corner of your room. It’s a tiny stupid break in your reality, but it’s a break nonetheless. It is an interruption of time.

Kit knew about this long ago. This is why he went around standing on cows.

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  1. I will have to watch this movie. Sounds like the stories I used to love to read when I was little, specifically for the M A G I C. The stories always involved some carefree quality and living outside…a creation of some kind of your-own-little life inside a life. Yes, it’s magic.

  2. Long as you don’t kill nobody… And I hope you’ve seen (or will soon see) Days of Heaven. The protagonists there are a lot more caught up with their daily struggles, but Malick isn’t. He always floats above it all– war, class struggle, the march of history. I want to smoke what he smokes.

    Time. My thing is, everything that goes wrong with a film (everything important, anyway) has to do with the filmmaker’s relationship to time. Same goes for actual humans, by and large. Malick’s storytelling and approach to character sort of helped me to that understanding.

    My dude Tarkovsky put it this way:

    “Rhythm in cinema is conveyed by the life of the object visibly recorded in the frame. Just as from the quivering of a reed you can tell what sort of current, what pressure there is in a river, in the same way we know the movement of time from the flow of the life-process reproduced in the shot. It is above all through sense of time, through rhythm, that the director reveals his individuality. Rhythm colours a work with stylistic marks. It is not thought up, not composed on an arbitrary, theoretical basis, but comes into being spontaneously in a film, in response to the director’s innate awareness of life, his ‘search for time’. It seems to me that time in a shot has to flow independently
    and with dignity, then ideas will find their place in it without fuss, bustle, haste. Feeling the rhythmicality of a shot is rather like feeling a truthful word in literature.”

    • Kartina Richardson

      Yes! Days of Heaven is also otherworldly. Pure magic. As for Tarkovksy, he is so unbelievable I can barely stand to watch


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