Badlands [1973]


Terrence Malick is a director, who used to direct very rarely. The first film I saw by him was The Thin Red Line, which I liked immediately. I missed The New World and finally 13 years later, I saw The Tree of Life. That hooked me and it was a given that I’d go see To the Wonder, when it came out a year later. Even that one I liked, but I was starting to wonder, if Malick had lost his edge – The Tree of Life and To the Wonder seemed like they were directed by a man, who’d found formula and was furiously applying it left and right. A few years later Badlands was playing at the cinema of the local film archive and I went to see it – now I knew that his later films were but a pale shadow of  his first film. Now, a few years later, Riviera Kallio was screening Badlands again and I had time on my hands, so I went to see it again.

Badlands has strong vibes from Camus’ L’Étranger, but unlike that, there’s also a strong undercurrent of innocence. Finally, this has a weight of geography to it. The film is situated in South Dakota and the endless flat lands of the northern flyover states give the film a gravity it would not otherwise have.

Basically a boy meets a girl, girl’s father gets angry, because boy is of a bad sort, boy shoots father and runs away with girl to live under their own rules and conditions, until it all comes crashing down and they start running to get away and start again, but innocence is lost and reality must catch up.

The story is told in a toned down manner. There’s all kinds of explosive scenes, but they are depicted in a toned down manner. This plays nicely with the protagonists not quite registering reality to the extent they perhaps should. Their innocence is shielding them from the gravity of their actions. This could make the whole film seem like it is forgiving towards the protagonists, but it isn’t. Nobody in the film much judges anything that happens – sure, the cops apprehend them, but as mentioned, some hours later all of them are all smiles. The film could almost be seen as approving of the actions, but it isn’t.

One judgement is in the depiction of the killings. The first one seems almost like an accident. Band, and it’s done. The body is quickly hidden and the crime is wiped away by burning down the house. Little by little the killings are given more weigh though. The chip away at the shield of innocence and they are depicted in a more and more gruesome fashion. This is the girl seeing the killings – she doesn’t even realize what happened with the first one, but no armor is perfect and reality seeps in through the cracks little by little.

Another judgement is given by geography. While the protagonists are living in the forest away from everyone else in their innocent little bubble, the horizon is always close by. The forest envelops them in a protective shield like their innocence and nothing is far away. First shots with even a little room for anything to seep in already contain other people, who call in bounty hunters and the sanctuary is suddenly lost. It is replaced by the endless badlands of the mid-northern US, where there is no escape. The horizon is always impossibly far as is the salvation that waits behind it. There is no escape, only more badlands. The inevitability of the landscape reflects the inevitability of reality catching up, and finally also the police.

The weight of this film is enough to crush the world beneath it.

  • Director: Terrence Malick
  • Watched on: 14th Jul 2017
  • Watched at: Riviera Kallio
  • 6/5

Change of Pace

I started this blog with some lofty ideas and ideals about highly thought out contemplation on films and other cultural content that I consume. Occasionally on things outside cultural content as well.

Well, as anyone can see, I haven’t been able to produce said content at any meaningful pace. I have a dozen films to write about on my backlog, but I can’t get them done, because I don’t have the time to write about them at length. By the time I get to writing about them, I’ve already forgotten half of the film and half of the thoughts I had about the film to begin with.

I’ve been keeping various journals or memos or something about these sorts of things before this blog. The purpose has been to write just a few words about pretty much everything in order to remember the films I’ve seen and the books I’ve read. Just 5-20 lines most of the time. It was a process to help me remember and it worked fantastically. Sometimes I had more to say than just a summary of the plot and whether I liked it or not. Sometimes I thought I had a nice idea and would have liked to share my notes to others.

I thought about scrapping this blog altogether, but people keep telling me that I seem to have thoughts worth sharing. Most of the time I don’t. Occasionally I think I do. So I’ll keep the blog as it is a convenient combination of a few things:

  • It allows me to keep at my practice of writing a few notes on the cultural products that I consume to help me remember them.
  • It is accessible to others and allows me to advertise the my texts to others, when I feel like I maybe had a point somewhere in there.
  • It allows me to write anywhere, when there’s a quiet moment or an interesting thought.
  • It allows me to write on a multitude of topics without having to find separate appropriate platforms to journal my thoughts on books, films, games, role-playing games, programming, etc.

So there. Blog remains. Hopefully more content on a quicker pace, but shorter write-ups most of the time. I still don’t have much time to spare for this, so we’ll have to see, if I can keep up with this even with the shorter notes…

Hello World

So this is a blog and I made this and now I’m supposed to publish stuff here…

Well, here goes. Hello World! This is me posting. I’m going to update this quite rarely, since I don’t have too much spare time on my hands.

Obviously, the title has little to do with the expected content. That’s because I couldn’t figure out anything witty about the expected content, so I picked something important to me. Maybe I’ll write here about turtles and slow life at some point, but that’s too personal for today.

The spark for this blog came, when my lovely fiancee gave me Juho Kuorikoski’s wonderful new book Suuret seikkailupelit as a Christmas present. I don’t have much spare time, but all of it was spent on that, once I’d picked it up. Unfortunately, it is (at least for the time being) available only in Finnish. Nevertheless, it tells the history of the adventure video game genre through the mouths of the people, who created the classic games of the genre, and goes through the most notable titles. I’ll talk about that more in a later post.

In any case, the book made me realize that although I’m a fan of the genre, I’ve missed nearly all of the classic titles or at least have not finished them. I just had to fill in the gaps and play through the classics, so I set myself a goal of playing through them. As writing is a way for me to make something a bit more real and permanent in my mind, I’ll write about the experience too. Kuorikoski’s penmanship moved me into embarking on the project. Who knows, maybe mine will move someone else.

From having a blog about an adventure gaming project, it was a short step to decide that the blog could have other stuff too. I already write quick book reviews in Goodreads and film reviews in Letterboxd, so those’ll appear here as well in the future. Obviously reviews about stuff not fit for those sites, and maybe some talk about my currently years long computer game development project that does not have a single line of code written down yet… Maybe writing about the development project will make me do something about it. Sprinkle in some more personal posts, if I feel like it.

That’s it for now. As I don’t expect to have a single reader at this point (I’ve told one person about this for now), I won’t bid my readers farewell.