Kill Your Darlings
Kill Your Darlings hits Berlin cinemas on January 30.
It was Faulkner who told artists to jettison anything overly dear to a writer’s heart and liable, for that reason, to impede clear creative vision. But it was the Beat Generation who grabbed the baton and ran with it as they joined forces at Columbia University in 1944, throwing out the old (metre and rhyme) in their struggle for the new.
First-time feature director Krokidas uses simple means (swing-jazz, frenetic wanking and the hectic tapping of typewriters) to re-imagine the birth of this era, setting up the dalliances and alliances between Ginsberg (post-Potter Radcliffe as the wide-eyed ingénue), Kerouac (Huston), Burroughs (Foster) and the manipulative, beautiful rake Lucien Carr (Dehaan) as a cleverly executed delirium. But the theme of effluent ephemera in search of emotional substance fails to sustain the events that follow.
When Carr kills an older lover and former ghost-writer of academic papers (a cause célèbre at the time), forcing Ginsberg to consider exonerating him with false testimony, Krokidas’ initially convincing version of events loses its way in overheated atmospherics. Killing this particular darling, or at least reigning it in, might have cleared the air: not necessarily for a cleaner but at least for a less cluttered picture.
Kill Your Darlings | Directed by John Krokidas (USA 2013) with Daniel Radcliffe, Jack Huston, Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster. Starts January 30
Originally published in issue #124, February 2014.