The Film Badlands

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Remembrance—the ability to recall to mind a person, thing, event, feeling, sensation or even smell (Merriam-Webster)—can be regarded as its own complex and perilous landscape. For every moment that can be recalled, there are many moments that simply disappear into the stream of lost memory. More troubling, however, is the possibility that we may misremember, that the active effort to recall the past may open up opportunity for mistakes, or even self-deception. This tension has powered different mediums of storytelling for generations. Each medium has developed its own devices for taking audiences into the grey zones of memory. The film Badlands offers an example through the imbalance between narration and dialogue and the contradictions of…show more content…
One of these instances—concerning Kit’s good looks—is referenced multiple times. At the beginning of the film, Holly’s narrative introduces Kit as, “handsomer than anyone I’d ever met,” then states that, “he looked just like James Dean.” This comparison between Kit and James Dean occurs again after Kit is arrested. As they are driving in the police car, one of the officers turns to the other and asks who it is that Kit looks like. The other officer has no reply. The first then says, “Well, I’ll kiss your ass if he don’t look like James Dean.” This is a key moment in which the dialogue does in fact complement the narration, and Holly’s perceptions (and thus, her memories) are confirmed by an outsider. One might go further and note that the outsider making that confirmation is a representative of the social order, not only a respected member of society, but the law itself, sees Kit the same way Holly does (at least in a very basic, superficial way). As Holly and Kit travel across the lonely western landscape, one scene allows viewers themselves to see Kit as James Dean reincarnated. This scene begins with a slow pan of an extreme long shot moving from right to left across the flat, desolate space. The camera pans to Kit who is standing facing away from the camera watching the sunset. His gun is resting across his shoulders, his arms intertwined in the firearm. The camera then cuts to a medium shot of Kit from the front at eye level to show his arms still intertwined with the rifle. It is this shot that serves as an allusion to James Dean’s famous pose—which is often referred to as the crucifix pose—from the 1956 film Giant. It is through this allusion that the educated viewer has now been given the opportunity to see Kit in the same light that Holly sees him (which

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