Essay: Images in the Film Badlands

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[. . .] Before he was a garbage man and had to deal with human trash. Now, he is in the feed lot and has to deal with cows. When Holly spends time with him, she seems so pure and bright. Her clothes are white, or some bright shade. When Kit finally decides to change outfits, he wears a shirt similar to the man next to the yellow shirt man in the interview room. It's a faded jean, long-sleeve, button down shirt.

The peacock feathers, the tiny, narrow bed, and the floral pattern on the wallpaper of Kit's room is jarring. 13 minutes into the film you see where Kit sleeps and it is so uncomfortable looking, I can understand why he might hate his life. He has to deal with dead cows, a tiny bed, and a life that creates a less than inviting existence. Being with Holly, the purity she possesses, might somehow make him feel as though it is all worth it. Who knows if that is true, but the director does an excellent job of putting clues throughout the scenes to foreshadow possible events.

The water looks so brown. When Kit takes Holly near the water, and he stares out from a rock, the water looks like sewage. The red balloon, the red flowers and the little baset across the blue sky, that is the image that passes when Holly states the promise Kit makes for her. Was the red meant to be blood? You know how friends, best friends make blood pacts? They spread their blood on each other's hands. Well Kit put some of his and Holly's belongings in a little basket and shipped off into the sky. What if that was a form of blood pact?

Now the scene with Holly and her father bring back two images, the dog, and the light blue color. Holly is wearing the light blue in a dress she has on. The black and white spotted dog appears frolicking in the dead, tall grass. The new addition is her father now dressed like the man who dismissed Kit. This time he has a gun and looks more "sully" than normal. In fact, his clothing is very similar, including the pattern of his shirt, to the man that dismissed Kit. Why is that?

Is the director trying to make him less than what he was before? Is he trying to bring back the character of that man we saw earlier? Why is the grass so green and tall in front of him? Before it seemed brown. Now it is a clear green.

The father shoots Holly's dog. For some reason that dog looks different than the dog from the beginning. And as it lays there on the grass, it looks like the dog Kit found earlier. Malick seems to love pale yellow, and light blue/pale blue/grey blue. It seems to appear consistently throughout these scenes.

When the father dumps the dogs body from the rusted bridge, it looks like feces on the water. It looks like a floating piece of excrement that splashed on dirty, muddy, brown water. 16 minutes, 12 seconds in, we see the very first instance of vivid green. It is on a giant billboard called: "Kauzer's Feed and Grain." The sign bears bright green trees with a woman who has on a green dress and everything looks perfect and serene. Funny how Holly's dad is painting it.

So in the scenes it went from brown, feces looking visuals when Holly's dad was dumping the dog to vivid green of a billboard sign. Holly's father, who at the start of the movie had bright light clothes on, has dirty beige and dirty off-white clothes. It looks like his clothes became the object wrath of a dust ball. He looks tainted. Perhaps he is tainted from the anger he feels for Kit.

I don't know if the Grain sign was the place where Kit worked or not. If it was, that sign is ironic seeing as the feedlot is disgusting and covered in poop, death, and cows. Peculiar how when Holly's dad tell Kit to stay away, you can see the red flowers on the sign. The flowers look very similar to the flowers from Kit's scene when he released the red balloon.

Another thing I noticed was that the billboard has the word "Friendly" on it with chickens and chicks and fish. Holly had a pet catfish, I think it was two colors and she through it on the grass in front of two small watermelons. I have no idea what that could signify, but it is a noteworthy image. Tossing something that failed in front of something that succeeded. The watermelon succeeded in growing and the catfish failed at living.

Holly plays the clarinet while wearing a green dress similar to the girl in the billboard sign in the next scene. The house Kit is outside of is painted pale yellow. Why does pale yellow keep appearing in these scenes? Does it represent fading sunlight, fading hope? Everything seems like it pale yellow, as if it is antique, fragile, old. When Kit packs up Holly's things, the same kind of floral pattern appears on Holly's walls much like Kit's except they're pale yellow and not pale blue. That could be the color connection.

Pale blue is on the walls outside of Holly's room. Pale yellow is in the living room where Kit shoots Holly's dad. The kitchen is yellow. Some of the accents are green like the mixing bowl and the green container on top of the fridge. So much yellow in that house. The visual connection throughout all the first 20 minutes of this film is color. Everything seems to be connected and indicative through the use of color.

Badlands is an amazing film. It has the ability to cross multiple perspectives in just a single, subtle blend of color. The visuals are strong and undeniable. At first I had no idea why I kept seeing the yellow and blue throughout the film, especially with Holly, but it appears now it represents her home. Her home is nothing but those two colors, at least the portion that was shown. When Holly's father died, the small bit of blood that came out from the gunshot wound looked like the red flowers both painted on the bill board sign and the ones that were with Kit when he released the balloon.

In analyzing the visual aspect of this film, simply looking at the colors, the way everything appears, and the common things that reappear, it really helps to understand the film more. The dead dog on the side of the road on Kit's garbage route, Holly's dead dog on the grass, it all ties together. Even the murky water where Kit would take Holly, that was later revisited by Holly's dad when he dumped her dead dog. Everything is connected in this film. It is all one intricate and vast work.

I remember commenting on the guy who dismissed Kit from his garbage man job and how Holly's dad started to look like him. I remember the pole Kit was holding onto making him look like he wanted to run away. If you take a close look at whatever you see, you start to see the lines, the work that was never seen before. Perhaps is what great directors do. They invite the viewer to see into a film and really try to analyze what it is all about.

It is good films like Badlands that make someone want to see it over and over again just because they missed all the little clues littered and sprinkled throughout the scenes. Terrence Malick is an amazing director and this film is worthy of its fame and popularity. It is definitely worth seeing in its entirety and worth looking deeper into. It represents everything that is right and wrong with this world, in a neat,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cite This Essay:

APA Format

Images in the Film Badlands.  (2013, November 6).  Retrieved May 21, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Images in the Film Badlands."  6 November 2013.  Web.  21 May 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Images in the Film Badlands."  November 6, 2013.  Accessed May 21, 2019.