Badlands tells the story of a violent man with no conscience committing murders in South Dakota and Montana. So I can't really recommend Badlands, except to say that I liked it. I don't remember when I saw for the first time—perhaps years ago when my alma mater Furman University hosted a relevant film series and showed it then, or perhaps I saw it in conjunction with my literary-criticism course.  
The movie concerns two young people from the rural mid-West who go on the run—Kit played by Martin Sheen, and Holly, by Sissy Spacek.

Kit and Holly live in Dupree, South Dakota, in dead-end anonymity, and become lovers when Kit sees her practice her baton-twirling routine in the street. Holly attends high school and belongs to the drum-majorette squad. She is sweet and loyal, but sort of vacuous, and hangs on to Kit who drifts from one dangerous, violent confrontation to another. While she does not participate in Kit's life of crime, she has an infantile sort of acceptance of his viciousness, with little sense of right and wrong, and scarcely any sort of independent life. She tags along like a child, tolerates their endless life on the run, and keeps up a sort of running commentary of their activities, in voice-over, never bothering to distinguish right from wrong.

Kit, a twenty-something, works as a garbage collector. He strikes a casual pose, behind which lurk demons by the dozen. He practices violence glibly, as if he cannot access indignation or grief about his actions. Hidden behind a psychological wall, emotional involvement remains beyond his reach. He obviously has problems behind that blank, undirected surliness—that he cannot resolve except with a firearm. Sheen's inhabiting Kit meant inhabiting Kit's blocked personal space and anti-social mindset. The intensity of the role caused Sheen to flip out a little. He had to inhabit the mind of Kit, a sociopath—a man with a half-full psyche and no oganized moral stance.

Their simple-minded romance—whetted on the run—gives them a special pathos and recalls other examples of fugitive love. Kit may remind a viewer of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, or Romeo toting a firearm, who has gone on the run with Juliet. The sadness of the story contrasts eerily with the fantastic scenery of the Midwestern United States.

Their flight from justice keeps them on the move, into the remote, semi-arid countryside of eastern Montana, leading into southern Saskatchewan. Kit keeps killing people with blank, surly disregard.
The endless landscapes lighted by the sun or the moon haunt the viewer, but beauty has little effect on Kit.

The film presents a surreal contrast of personal realities and visual fantasy, using a soundtrack by Carl Orff that maintains the little harmony available in that contrast, and suffuses the landscape in a curious innocence. The soundtrack closes out the film, with Kit boarding a plane that will take him to his execution, and the clouds no less fantastic than they have ever been.

The director of Badlands, Terrence Malick, ran out of money during the shooting of Badlands and had to wing it from that point on, borrowing a little here and there to make up for the shortfall, and  clashing with his technical crew. Miraculously, none of these problems have any effect on the final product, which has a seamless, haunting quality that never lets up its hold on the viewer.


March 31, 2023

How Long Do Republicans Wait?

Americans who vote Republican have to remember that, for people who work for the Republican Party, it's just a job. They may like their jobs. Mostly they prefer to keep their jobs. They may share the Republican sentiment for free-market principles and military readiness; but when someone like me comes along and suggests that Republicans petition for a nation of their own, they worry about things like job-redundancy and relocations more than they do about Democrat big-government and peacenik sell-out.

March 23, 2023

Release Grand Ole Prometheus!

Left-wing trash-talking of the GOP represents a concerted campaign that should concern its leaders. The scathing rhetoric suggests that the trash-talking will not end until the Left can make the GOP the permanent minority-party, and silence or discredit its associated media-organs. Older Americans familiar with the Nazi-smearing of the Jews should note the similarities in the left-wing method. Neither the Republicans nor freedom-loving people of any stripe should ignore the potential threat that these smear-tactics represent.

March 21, 2023

Republicans: a New Start

The Republican Party has a few tasks it needs to undertake. It needs to examine the philosophy it claims to represent and to take stock of its future, and stop thinking in terms of personal rivalries. We have more on the line than just choosing candidates and securing a victory in future elections. The GOP needs to regain a corporate sense-of-self. How can we move forward when we have deep doubts about the game, the rules, and not least the players?

Lloyd Bowers

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