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images in the film Badlands by Terrence Malick are often disharmonious, wherein the potential importance of an encountered object evades the thinking, activity, and perception of the characters. It is as if Malick desires for every object in the scene to dance around available categories, without settling into any particular one. This indecisiveness and abstract conception seems to become his saving grace and what makes the film so interesting and dynamic. If one pays attention to the visuals of the film, one can see the points and unique perspective of Malick.
The opening sequence of the film which has the actress, Sissy Spacek, or "Holly" on her bed with her dog, caressing him as she discusses her mom, plays in stark contrast to the dead border collie, or unknown breed of dog, Kit finds on the street. He has his hands on the dog's snout. The dog is small, looked to be a puppy still. Holly's dog is full grown and she had her hand on his head and body. They looked similar the dogs, except their size and how one was alive vs. The deceased one.
There's another dog while Kit is throwing out trash as a garbage man that looks like a black cat. It's peculiar how the dog who looks like a black cat, ignores the ball Kit throws. Normally dogs follow balls, at least it is a perceived expectation for dogs to behave that way. That is what Kit thought, and what motivated him to throw the white ball to the black dog. But the dog just ignored it, much like cats ignore things, sitting at the doorway.
Speaking of throwing, Kit threw an thrown out pair of black boots at his work partner and the work partner threw a crumpled ball of newspaper. The images of grey from the dead dog, the grey newspaper, the grey trash cans, and the silver can Kit kicked along the path after work really played into the feeling of the scene. It was a dirty, boring, dull, routine scene where people were doing their job and existed. Compare that to Holly's colorful, green grass, and colorful shirt, blonde hair, twirling that shiny baton. It did a wonderful job of setting everything together.
When Kit and Holly met, it's funny how Holly had on tiny, tight, white shorts and a loose blue, short sleeve t-shirt and Kit had on regular blue jeans, and a tight, white short-sleeve t-shirt. It reminds me of the white thighs of this Japanese movie. The guys in the school would remark on the beautiful, white thighs of the girls in gym class when they wore their shorts. And Kit, his tan, his dark hair, his tight, white shirt, it was as if he was almost a bad boy, but not really. After all he did tuck in his shirt, if only to make it look tighter.
When the audience is introduced to Holly's dad, he almost looks like the Kernel from KFC, Kernel Sanders. There are so many signs in his yard: a John Deer sign in black and yellow, a green and white sign that has the word "Profit" on it. There is a white sign, well the top half is white and it has the phrase: "So Pure" on the white part. The yellow part beneath has GRADE A. Holly stands right beneath it as she moves to her dad after talking to Kit. And just underneath that white sign and slightly in front of her tight, white shorts, is a can of beer sign, at least it looks like a can of beer.
There's another dog where Kit went to. He looks to be a German shepherd. The man he talks to, unlike Holly's dad who is dressed in creamy beige or off-white, or eggshell from head to toe, with white paint, painting the deer sign, looks brown and dirty, much like the broken, brownish couch he is sitting on. He has a hat similar to Holly's dad but it looks weathered and has a yellow tinge to it. He's peeling a red apple that doesn't look particularly too fresh.
When Kit hears he lost his job as garbage man, he tosses his keys into a tar filled, rusted, metal barrel. The guy who told him of his dismissal spits at him, I'm guessing tobacco, because it looked black or dark brown as it flew and hit Kit. When Kit is looking for work, he compared to everyone else looks the most casual. He has on his jean jacket, blue and white, and brown, while the others are yellow, navy blue with ties and black shoes, the older man to the right has brown cowboy looking boots.
The room is covered in grey-blue paint. The guy with the yellow shirt and the guy next to him with the light blue shirt almost look like they should be apart of the wall. Because over the grey-blue paint is a section of yellow with posters of black, white, and red on top. Even the light that comes from the right hand side, from window, looks light blue instead of white.
All these colors, the director might want to show through the color, the feelings of these people, the reality of it all. Holly's world is filled with bright vivid colors whereas Kit's world is filled with dull, grey colors. Furthermore, the pairing of blue and white for Holly and Kit really helps the audience visualize them as a couple. Remember how couples dress alike sometimes? It looks like the director wanted to do that to hint to the audience that they will be a couple soon. Perhaps the father was dressed all in white/cream/off-white to signal something sinister will happen to stain the light he possesses.
When Kit sees Holly again, she is wearing white socks with black shoes. He was wearing white and black cowboy boots. The same thing happens here again. They match each other, the compliment each other. This goes on and continues throughout the movie as they pair up and live a romantic, violent adventure.
There is light blue painted on the ceiling of the porch where Holly sits. It is similar to the cold blue of the room Kit was in before, looking for work. The white light from the sun and the green leaves of the tree hover over Holly as if she is Eve from Adam and Eve. The camera focuses on Holly's face and shows an air of bemused indifference, as if she wants to participate just because.
Remembering the can of beer sign from before, there are 6 bottle of beer signs on display at a building where Kit takes Holly to walk by. There's one more on the second window with a neon sign that says: "Coors." It's where the disharmonious imagery pops up. Here is Holly, a 15-year-old girl who has to do her homework, and here's Kit, 25-year-old recently laid off garbage man who is taking her near a bar. It appears a bit...odd.
His car is dark grey. It looks as if dirt encrusted the car. When she gets in, the interior, a brownish hue, matches brown of the cow in the next clip and the beige covered man who dismissed him. The walls this time are grey as they appear to be ridged sheet metal. The way Kit hangs on to the branch or pole above him looks like those people back then who would run away and they had only a stick and a picnic blanket tied into bundle holding some food and maybe a change of clothes. That is what he looks like.
Is it foreshadowing? Like the color matching for the potential couple and the light of the father, is this image a marker to show Kit's desire to run away? It already looks like he will, considering he lost his job and he likes an underage girl who has a father that will never approve of him. But then we see he's working at the feedlot. The cows shoved with a pole, the same pole that reminds me of the gun shown later in the film.
I keep seeing yellow and blue together. Holly wears it in her dress and Kit always wears his jeans and t-shirt uniform. Most of the opening scenes focus on brown, yellow, beige, and white with a couple of animals in between, especially black animals, like the black cow that looked sick in the farm. Even when looking at the green grass and green trees they never truly look green. They look like they are on the verge of death.
It begs to ask why Malick decided to put together the clip of the sick, black cow with the picnic Holly and Kit have. Is it supposed to signify something of their romance? Are the brownish leaves supposed to reveal their likely death, at least as it pertains to their relationship? Kit always has a murky look to him,…[continue]
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