Felix Guattari: What seems interesting to me with regard to this film, Badlands [1973, by Terence Malick], is that it shows us a story of amour iou, which is precisely what the critics did not see. I think that this makes people nervous. There are color elements, of blue, that are really agonizing throughout. It is a film about mad love and people refuse to accept these two dimensions of love and madness in combination. If there weren't all the murders, everything that makes one compare the film to Billy the Kid, The Wild Bunch, Bonnie and Clyde, etc., this would be an avant-garde film and it wouldn't get shown anywhere. In fact, the story is only there to support a schizophrenic journey. At every turn, we are on the edge of madness. It is this constant crossing of borders that seems perfectly conveyed to me. What the critics retained, in short, was the idea that this guy gets unhinged by dint of imitating James Dean. But things don't happen like that at all. The first thing that one has to realize is that the boy, Kit, should never be separated from the girl, Holly. They make up a sort of double arrangement. Certain behaviors of Holly belong to the schizo-process of Kit, although she herself is not schizophrenic. Conversely, certain behaviors of Kit belong to the completely avenge, normal world of Holly. Hence, it's absolutely impossible to separate the normal and the pathological. What is paradoxical is that the entire film is built around the idea that the guy is not really mad. The proof is that he goes to the electric chair. And yet, his madness, the fact that he has a screw loose, etc., is constantly alluded to. For her part, Holly is presented as a steady girl. For example, she says: ''I'll never let myself get carried away with another daredevil again." Second negation after madness: love. We are shown a love story which is totally beyond stereotypes, a kind of extraordinary schizo love. For example, when Kit has just lulled Holly's father, she says to him, "Don't worry," and gives him a small slap that is both nagging and reassuring. Or again when they flick for the first time, Kit pretends to smash his hand, a typical schizo act. She tells him: "You're making fun of me, you don't care how I feel." But his indifference is only apparent; one senses he is so sure of his love that it never occurs to him to doubt her. It is only at the end of the film, when she ends up leaving him, that there is this very beautiful scene in which he angrily threatens to shoot her. But finally, he makes an imaginary rendezvous with her knowing full well he'll not see her again.
There are two ways of considering the world of schizo-desire: the infrapersonal level of desiring-machines-how the world is organized with systems of intensity of colors, impressions, appearances-and the suprapersonal level, in direct contact with the socius.
I picked out several elements in these two categories. The moment when he hits a can of food in the street, the moment when he's in love, and the moment when he listens to seashells and sees Holly coming as a white form. All this remains sort of "normal." But there is also the moment when he shoots at the fish, or shoots at the balloon, or shoots at the tires, and a series of completely bizarre behaviors such as the theme of the stones that one finds throughout the film. There are also explicitly crazy acts, acts of agony: when he kills Holly's father and puts his body in the basement, he takes up a toaster that reappears several times in the film; when he puts Cato's body in a cool place and begins turning round and round in a sort of military march with completely discordant gestures; and finally, when he makes a record and then burns it.
There are also scenes of schizo humor. At one moment he says: "We could have stopped the train by putting the car in front." And then there is this incredible scene when he locks up the two guys who come into Cato's house by accident. He shoots twice and says: "You think I got 'em? I don't want to know." Another high point of the film, in my opinion, is when, refering to the owner of a villa whom he has shut up with a deaf person, he says: "They were lucky, these two." At that point one realizes that, in fact, he remembers every detail, that he is not at all confused.
Another very important theme is the loss of objects. It begins in the closed off family circle, and then assumes a cosmic perspective when some objects float toward the sky in a balloon, when he buries other objects in the ground so that they can be found a few hundred years later. When things begin to go badly for him, Kit looks at other objects that he has kept in a suitcase and says to someone: "You can take them." He keeps a children's book. At the end of the film, he gives away his pencil, his pen, etc. It is like an expanding universe. It goes in every direction, this really is a schizo thing. All the coordinates, all the values explode all over the place. This starts with the fire which is a kind of schizo jouissance as well, a desire for annihilation.
Now, let us take some examples in the domain I called the suprapersonal level, in direct contact with the socius. The characters, for example, make reflections of the kind: "You see, we've made waves, the two of us." It is clear that what they are aiming at, then, is the stupidity of society, the stupidity of the police. It is the whole James Dean dimension, the whole paranoid dimension. He dumps on us all the trash about bounty hunters, the Commies, the atomic bomb ... Same thing when he reconstructs a camp, like one in Vietnam, when he speaks in the cassette recorder: one must follow the elders, etc. Completely reactionary ...
Liberation: You say «he is schizo, "you say «he is reactionary. "
Felix Guattari: Schizo or paranoid, its of little importance; he is reactionary as soon as he enters the field of dominant significations. At the level of intensities, where you don't know if you are man, woman, plant, or whatever, you stand directly in relations of desire, the relations of love with Holly. One no longer knows who is who, or who speaks to whom. Everything becomes an interrelational fabric-the eyes, the machines, the gestures. At the level of asignifYing connections that escape the everyday world, one identifies something, one says to oneself: "Here is a funny thing; yes, well, I didn't see it," and then one goes on to something else. At the level where significations solidifY-"l am a cop; I am a man; you are a woman, hence you do not drive; you are a cop, I shoot you face-to-face; you are a bounty hunter, I shoot you from behind" -there are double-entry tables that serve to classifY all people and roles. At this moment he is completely reactionary. He organizes his whole life in exact symmetry with the girl's father; he is as much of a bastard as the girl's father or the police. The schizo is an individual who can be in direct contact with the unconscious in the social field, but who can also function in a paranoid mode, openly seeing through the stupidity of the police: "You are so proud to have arrested me, you think you're heroes." He understands immediately. He is in the unconscious of others. He deciphers American society. Because in reality, he does not take himself at all for James Dean. It is the police, in fact ...
Liberation: Yes, twice he is compared to James Dean. It is the girl at the beginning who says: "lliked him because he made me think of James Dean. " It is the cops in the end, after having arrested him, who say: «You are like James Dean. "
Felix Guattari: Yes, his favorite hero is I don't remember who.
Liberation: He wants to be Nat King Cole. It is not at all the same as James Dean.
Felix Guattari: He wants to sing. That is the world of crystallized people. They are grimacing, like TV stars. But as soon as you go beyond that, then it is a marine or airy world, a world of intensities. One goes there because the air is purer; it is the sand, the colors, the caresses. They say (the critics) that he treats her like an animal. That's wrong, it's an absolutely marvellous love story.
Liberation: There's another aspect of the film we have to talk about, the political aspect. The young cop who arrests him acts exactly like him.
Felix Guattari: Exactly. He arrests him, then he shoots at him just to be mean, to scare him.
Liberation: It's the same type of stupidity. At a given moment, society becomes completely crazy. Because they are on the run, sheriffi accompany the kids to school' troops guard the central bank because there are rumors that they were going to attack it. Holly says: 'It's as if we were Russians. )) It's a critique of American society.
Felix Guattari: In Night of the Living Dead there was the same mass phenomenon. Good Americans all go out with their guns and end up shooting this poor black guy who had nothing to do with anything.
Liberation: At first, one doesn't have to see this guy as being crazy.
Felix Guattari: He is no more crazy at the beginning than at the end, or he is crazy all the time, it's just the way you look at it. Amour lou is madness no matter what. He says: "Me, I can lay all the girls, I have no problem, but you are something else"; or he says: "Besides, fucking, fucking, who cares? Yeah, yeah, it was very good." He doesn't give a shit for stories about fucking. No, it is really the story of a great love. A love that goes right through people. The father's on his back? Good, well, he shoots him. Too bad, he shouldn't have been there!
Liberation: It's not like that, you're rigging the story a little. At the beginning, this guy is normal
Felix Guattari: Absolutely not normal.
Liberation: He's a poor bum, a garbage collector, and he is not so proud of it. Besides, when the girl asks him what he does, he says: 'Tm afraid to get up early in the morning, so 1 work as a garbage collector, " and then afterwards he's fired from his garbage job and works on a farm. He accepts the first job the employment agency offers him; he's the kind of guy who'll take anything, not a rebel in any way. He goes out with a girl and the father doesn't want him to go out with her because she shouldn't go out with a guy of his social class. Already there, society blunders. The father prevents him from seeing the girl. They see each other anyway. Then the father kills the girl's dog to punish her. This is the first act of madness in the film. It is the father who commits it. That's what the guy is up against. So what does he do, he goes to see the father and says to him: "Sir, I've a lot of respect for your daughter. 1 don't see why you won't let me see her, and if one day she no longer wants to see me, I'll let her go, 1 promise you, etc., " and the father tells him to piss off Then, at that point, he goes to see the girl. No one is home, he ends up entering the house, but really by chance ...
Felix Guattari: No, not at all. He says: "I figured everything out."
Liberation: He thinks the girl is there.
Felix Guattari: He is armed, and he says, "I figured everything out." It triggers a kind of infernal machine of which he is the prisoner. It ends up going badly, but he already had figured it might go badly, because of taking the risk of entering the girl's house, of packing up and leaving and all that ...
He doesn't improve. He goes to work and his boss tells him, "Youre fired! They all have guns in this film. That's where I really see the thing about American madness. There isn't a single guy who isn't armed. If he kills the fa ther, it's in self-defense, because the father says to him: "You entered my house. I'm handing you over to the police for armed robbery. " It's twenty years; he's got to kill the father.
Felix Guattari: I'm sorry, I don't agree with you. Let's be precise. He's as crazy at the beginning as at the end, neither more nor less. Madness coincides with the schizo journey, with amour fou. From the moment he sees the girl, a machine of amour fou is triggered. He manages to get fired from his job. He wants to see her again, but because she tells him, "I don't hang out with garbage collectors," he comes back with a proper job.
Liberation: He doesn't improve. He goes to work and his boss tells him, "Youre fired!
Felix Guattari: Yes, but-you understand-it's one thing if the general framework unleashes behaviors of panic, of agony, of typical madness. It's a way of making clear what is already apparent from the beginning. Remember how he behaves at the beginning: "You want shoes? A dollar! You want to eat the dead dog? Give me a cigarette?" He says this to the guy with whom he picks garbage. Is all this nothing? Is it normal? All this is of no consequence. Remember, all of a sudden, he leaves: "Oh, shit. I've worked enough for today," etc. He is crazy all the time, if one looks closely. And Holly certainly knows it. Before agreeing to leave with him, she says to herself: "I love him, but he's totally crazy! How he treats me, he's weird.
Liberation: Yes, she often says it. She says it to the rich guy; she says it to the girl he's going to kill ...
Felix Guattari: At the beginning, all this is of no consequence because nobody's bothering him. When passion and repression come along, it's a catastrophe, it's as if he had been put in an asylum. You take a guy who is a bit mad, you put him in an asylum, either you or me, and he becomes completely crazy!
Liberation: We are shown the kind of society that makes this guy totally crazy. He's crazy and he makes the society crazy, and at the same time, he's the perfect cop, he is respectful of the established orde
Felix Guattari: There, I'm sorry, one must avoid a major misinterpretation. A paranoiac is not necessarily a reactionary.
Liberation: Why is a paranoiac not a reactionary?
Felix Guattari: Because a guy who starts talking to you about Hitler, Joan of Arc, or whoever, he borrows, let's say, semiotic elements in the social field. He is no more reactionary than a kid who says: 'TIl pull the head off my little brother," or "I'll kill mum," or who will do anything to annoy you. One cannot say that he is reactionary. The paranoiac-libido is so entangled in its molecular elements with the schizo-libido that it makes no sense to divide people into good or bad, reactionary or progressive. Kids in neighborhood gangs who wear Hitlerian insignia on their backs are not fascists; fascists are White Suprematists, they are structured organisms. It's a fact that representations of the socius, reactionary representations, are conveyed both in one and in the other. You find unconscious, reactionary elements of the socius in your dreams. Sometimes you also have disgusting dreams. You look for what is most rotten in the socius, but what you select are semiotic chains that are all put together outside. This does not mean that you are a fascist or that the dream is fascist, it proves nothing.
Liberation: There is their madness, when one presses them. The father is not dead and the girl says: "Let's call the doctor. " Then he says: "No, forget it. " She says: "Yes, and I'll tell 'em what happened"-implying, of course, that if one tells what happened, nothing will happen, because when the others find out the way things happened, they'll realize he isn't guilty. And he replies: "That won't do, " i.e., in any case they won't believe it. It's the system; it doesn't quite fit your interpretation.
Felix Guattari: Yes, but I was careful to say at the beginning ...
Liberation: ... that the story was only there to make you accept the rest ...
Felix Guattari: ...because there is something that doesn't fit. Kit, after all, is a guy who's pretty together. In various circumstances, he shows that he's an excellent organizer. He panics at the scene of the first murderthat of the father-because he'd planned everything in order to leave with the girl. He took a gun, but hadn't foreseen that it might turn out like that. But then later he thinks things out in detail. There is always a bit of improvisation, but as far as the essential is concerned, nothing is left to chance. It is there that, in my opinion, the film blunders. The way the character has been defined, it's not at all obvious that he would end up shooting guys around like this, systematically. The second time with Cato is still understandable, because he is scandalized that Cato talks nonsense to him (the story of gold pieces buried in the fields, etc.). He is terribly angry, a shot is fired as happened with Holly's father. He is infuriated by all the bullshit. The other murders seem really forced to fit the story.
Liberation: You don't say it's a film about a schizo. You say it's a schizo film.
Felix Guattari: It's a schizo film. I think critics don't tolerate things like this. They have to put this somewhere.
Liberation: There is an interview with the author.
Felix Guattari: An interview? Where?
Liberation: Here, in Positif, I don't think he mentions the word "schizo" even once.
Felix Guattari: There isn't a sentence where he says the guy is crazy? He doesn't realize it himself?
Liberation: don't think so. He says: "1 thought of him and the girl as the sort of children you find in fairy tales; you see them in Huckleberry Finn, Swiss Family Robinson, and Treasure Island. They're lost in nature, they only know how to react to what is inside themselves. They do not communicate with the external world, they do not understand what others feel. Which doesn't mean they have no emotions, or that they are insensitive. "
Felix Guattari: Yes, it's really stupid, it's terrible.
(He takes Positif and glances through it.)
Felix Guattari: This interview is really revolting. Yuk! It makes me puke!
Félix Guattari - Chaosophy, Cinema Fou
Published by Semiotext(e) 2007 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 427, Los Angeles, CA 90057