PUBLISHED 12 AUG 2016
FROM start to finish, NATURAL BORN KILLERS fills the screen with a chaotic sense of destruction and madness. No matter how cruel and aggressive the protagonists Mallory (Juliette Lewis) and Mickey Knox (Woody Harrelson) might be, their joy in death along with their seductive love for each other makes them charismatic characters. That is why one might relate to the traumatised killers and at times even rejoice in the confusion and massacre on display.
Mickey and Mallory’s first victim is Mallory’s father, who used to physically and emotionally abuse her. This is just one of the many perverted, violent and disrespectful characters who will be killed by Mallory and Mickey. They see their actions as a purification and cleansing of the evil and gruesome world that surrounds them. As Mickey puts it, murder is pure while the industry controlled by opportunists is nothing but a “lifetime of […] lies”.
Throughout the film, Mallory and Mickey subvert society’s central institutions like marriage and the law, killing mostly policemen and marrying in the middle of the street by cutting themselves and “joining” their blood. They find happiness in the destruction of society’s values and rules, considering them dishonest and hypocritical.
This continuous desire to turn the world into chaos is also mirrored by the cinematography and narrative of the film. An example of this is the lack of space and time continuity. In some scenes where Mickey is driving with Mallory, instead of using actual locations, images of streets, fields and monsters are projected onto a screen in the background. Scenes are shot with canted angles and are lit and overlaid with the colours of the American flag as well as in monochrome. These techniques convey a dream-like atmosphere but also contribute to a sense of continuous distress that the protagonists feel.
Whether their behaviour is fuelled by an identity crisis, the extreme, uncontrollable love they feel for each other, their traumas or their anger for society, they feel more alive in the midst of the carnage and anarchy. This culminates in a frightening scene where a violent riot takes place while Mallory and Mickey are in prison. This sequence is composed of fast edits displaying the rage felt by the prisoners and the subsequent torture of the guards and traitors. Nevertheless, the love demonstrated by Mallory and Mickey turns it into a cheerful scene at times, exhibiting a shift of power from the corrupt and aggressive police force to the resentful, dangerous but sincere prisoners.
In the end, Mallory and Mickey stop killing to dedicate themselves to love, mainly because they encounter someone pure and enlightened who helps them. This ending may seem contradictory. Yet, instead of enjoying life by murdering immoral and repulsive people, they turn away from civilisation and start building a world of their own. Their delight in destruction makes way for their joy in construction.