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'Badlands' Arrives On Criterion: 10 Things We Learned About The Terrence Malick Classic

The Playlist By Rodrigo Perez | The Playlist March 20, 2013 at 4:22PM

When you think of lovers and killers on the lam, you think of roadtrip movies like “True Romance,” “Natural Born Killers,” “Bonnie & Clyde” or "The Getaway." But when philosopher, journalist and renaissance man turned filmmaker Terrence Malick tackled the genre for his debut picture, he created a film more interested in innocence (and its loss) and love than the crimes and acts of violence occurring within the story based on Charles Starkweather’s late ‘50s killing spree. A lyrical and impressionistic take on a troubled young killer and the girl that falls for him -- perhaps all the more chilling for its beautiful imagery and sublime/naive view of life that some of us still argue is his finest work to date -- “Badlands” would launch the career of one of cinema’s most enigmatic and inscrutable filmmakers who would soon stop talking to the press or allowing his photo to be taken.
Badlands, Behind The Scenes

8. While others revolted and thought Malick was inexperienced -- much of that is documented here -- others saw his talent right away.
“I had no doubts about Terry from the first day's worth of dailies.” Weber said. “I just thought he was different, but I certainly always felt like he knew what he wanted. It wasn’t like he was shooting a movie in the dark hoping it would work. He knew what he wanted to do.”

9. Longtime editor Billy Weber said making “Badlands” was tough, but working with Malick taught him much about film.
“It was a difficult edit to come out of because neither one of us knew what we were doing,” Webber said on the Criterion DVD. “That made it harder. There was a lot less experimentation on ‘Badlands’ than anything that followed.” It was like that because, “we were on a very tight schedule, Terry was a first-time director and he wanted to put out there what his original intention was and he didn’t want to censor himself. He just really wanted to see what would happen if he kept faith in what he wanted to do.”

Having been an editor on all of Malick’s films, Weber has accrued plenty of wisdom to apply not only to Malick’s movies, but the process of filmmaking itself. “What you realize when you’re cutting a movie is the new script is the film,” he said. “The old script is what was written on the page, but that’s now old. That doesn’t really mean a lot. What matters is the new script, which is the shot footage.”

10. One last pearl of wisdom from Weber attests to the fact that Malick’s films aren’t haphazard and the filmmaker doesn’t just figure things out in post-production.
“I personally don’t believe a movie can be saved in the editing room -- I know there’s an expression that it can be, but I don’t believe in that,” Webber said. "The first cut of a movie is the movie. You can’t change the essence of a movie. You can make it move faster, you can shift scenes around, but I don’t believe it can be saved. You can tell in the first cut whether it works and then you just make it better. The first cut of ‘Badlands’ is what ‘Badlands’ is. We just made it shorter.”

“Badlands,” like any Malick film production, is now legendary. The filmmaker actually got into a fistfight with one of the producers, an on-set fire practically killed a crew member, frustration and mutiny led to three different cinematographers working on the film, and the picture went way over budget. For more in-depth “did you know” details about “Badlands,” make sure to read our original feature about the film. For more “Things You May Not Know” about the films of Terrence Malick, be sure to check out our features on “Days Of Heaven,” “The Thin Red Line,” “The New World,” “The Tree of Life,” and an extensive and in-depth profile on all the Lost & Unproduced Screenplays of Terrence Malick’s career.

Criterion's 3 Reasons for "Badlands":

Terrence Malick's "Badlands" cameo:

"Badlands" is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray via the Criterion Collection. -- Additional reporting by Kevin Jagernauth

This article is related to: Terrence Malick, Badlands, Criterion Collection, The Criterion Collection, DVD / Blu-Ray, Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek

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