This essay appeared in Bright Lights Film Journal (November 4, 2014)
To read in pdf: American Dreamers (BLFJ)
If Badlands is a story outside history, as Malick claims, then Kit is bent on creating one for
himself, a history of himself, or failing that, finding a memento to stand in for a history that will go unnoticed and unsung, as our histories tend to do. “I’m going to keep it for a
souvenir,” he says finally, of the stone. “Or maybe one that’s lighter,” he adds, tossing the heavy stone away and reaching for a more portable one. These are the scenes that, true to Malick’s wish, prevent my “winking” at his character’s expense. I feel, with Kit, the sadness and futility of our attempts to mark our own passages. Memento mori: remember that you must die. Perhaps more to the point: remember that you must be forgotten.