Badlands (1973)

Drama Rated PG

Terrence Malick had a fluid naturalism in his debut feature, a loose dramatization of the Charles Starkweather-Caril Anne Fugate killing spree of the late 1950s. This is largely another of Malick’s impressionistic tales of paradise lost, but here the dreamy approach feels fresh and exciting. As it follows Starkweather/Fugate stand-ins Kit (Martin Sheen) and Holly (Sissy Spacek), the young lovers who leave a trail of bodies in their wake across middle America, the movie’s drama comes from its sense of inevitable doom. It’s only a matter of time before the couple’s bizarre idyll is shattered by the law. Up until that point, however, Malick’s poeticism puts us right in the middle of that idyll, especially when Kit and Holly hide out in the forest, where they build an elaborate tree house complete with passwords to be used upon entering. A place where nature can be captured in full bloom, this is the first of Malick’s many screen Edens, all of which inevitably come to a violent end.