Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



Terrence’s Malik’s debut film ranks up there with Citizen Kane and Blood Simple as films that can be described as having “Burst on the scene.” He stuns, as both writer and director, and how did he learn all that before he ever shouted “Action!”? Loosely based on spree killers Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate (who is still alive, paroled after 17 years) and their rampage across the Midwest in 1958. They killed ten people, many for no reason at all. Malik seems to have pondered the question, “What sort of people could have done such a thing?” There are no real answers. But the two here, played by Sissy Spacek before Carrie and Martin Sheen before Apocalypse Now, are two of the most vacuous, dreamy, disconnected characters ever put on the screen. And I mean that in a positive way. Spacek narrates, from somewhere in some goofy cloud cuckoo-land, and Sheen caroms off the landscape, tossing out non sequiturs right and left. They are ultra-spooky, but hardly alive enough to be truly evil. It is hard to know just what to think of them, and that is the genius of the film. It’s tough to work up enough spit to truly hate them. The other-worldliness of the whole thing is enhanced by the brilliant choice of music: Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman’s relentless and yet distant and detached percussion ensemble of drums and various idiophones in Schulwerk, plus some themes by Erik Satie. There has seldom been a film as evocative and drop dear gorgeous as this one.