Kill Your Darlings (2013 film)
Kill Your Darlings is a 2013 American biographical drama film written by Austin Bunn and directed by John Krokidas in his feature film directorial debut. The film had its world premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, garnering positive first reactions. It was shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, and it had a limited theatrical North American release from October 16, 2013. Kill Your Darlings became available on Blu-ray and DVD, March 18, 2014 in the US, followed by its UK release on April 21, 2014.
|Kill Your Darlings|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Krokidas|
|Screenplay by||John Krokidas|
|Story by||Austin Bunn|
|Music by||Nico Muhly|
|Edited by||Brian A. Kates|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Classics|
The story is about the college days of some of the earliest members of the Beat Generation (Lucien Carr, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac), their interactions, and Carr's killing of his childhood friend David Kammerer in Riverside Park in Manhattan, New York City.
As a young man in the 1940s, poet Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) wins a place at Columbia University in New York City. He arrives as a very inexperienced freshman, but soon runs into Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), who is very anti-establishment and rowdy.
After a while, Ginsberg discovers that Carr only manages to stay at Columbia thanks to a somewhat older man, a professor, David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), who writes all of his term papers for him, and has a predatory relationship with Carr. It appears that Kammerer is still in love with Carr, and is revealed to be pressuring Carr for sexual favors, in exchange for assuring that he cannot be expelled.
Ginsberg soon meets, through Carr, William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster), already far into drug experimentation. The writer Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), who was a sailor at that time and expelled from Columbia, also meets and spends time with them. Carr eventually tells Kammerer he is done with him, and recruits Ginsberg (who has a crush on him) to write his term papers instead. After a while, Kerouac and Carr attempt to run off and join the merchant marine together, hoping to go to Paris.
There is a confrontation between Carr and Kammerer, during which Kammerer is killed by stabbing (and perhaps also by drowning). Carr is arrested, and asks Ginsberg to write his deposition for him. Ginsberg is at first reluctant to help the unstable Carr, but after digging up more crucial evidence on Kammerer and his past relationship, he writes a piece entitled "The Night in Question". The piece describes a more emotional event, in which Carr kills Kammerer who outright tells him to after being threatened with the knife, devastated by this final rejection. Carr rejects the "fictional" story, and begs a determined Ginsberg not to reveal it to anybody, afraid that it will ruin him in the ensuing trial.
We learn from Carr's mother that Kammerer was the first person to seduce Carr, when he was much younger and lived in Chicago. After the trial we find out that Carr testified that the attack took place only because Kammerer was a sexual predator, and that Carr killed him in self-defense. Carr is not convicted of murder and receives only a short sentence for manslaughter.
Ginsberg then submits "The Night in Question" as his final term paper. On the basis of that shocking piece of prose, Ginsberg is faced with possible expulsion from Columbia. Either he must be expelled or he must embrace establishment values. He chooses the former, but is forced to leave his typescript behind. A week or two later he receives the typescript in the mail with an encouraging letter from his professor telling him to pursue his writing.
- Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg
- David Cross as Louis Ginsberg
- Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr
- Ben Foster as William S. Burroughs
- Michael C. Hall as David Kammerer
- Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac
- Jennifer Jason Leigh as Naomi Ginsberg
- Elizabeth Olsen as Edie Parker
- John Cullum as Professor Harrison Ross Steeves
- David Rasche as Dean of Columbia University
- Kyra Sedgwick as Marian Carr
- Zach Appelman as Luke Detweiler
In 2008, while performing Equus on Broadway, Daniel Radcliffe auditioned and got the part of Ginsberg. Radcliffe went on to film the last two Harry Potter films, Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2, and with him unavailable for filming, Chris Evans, Jesse Eisenberg, and Ben Whishaw were cast without Radcliffe. Shortly after, financing for the film fell through. When director John Krokidas started production on the film again, he offered the role of Ginsberg back to Radcliffe.
Kill Your Darlings received an overall approval rating of 75% from critics at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 142 reviews with an average rating of 6.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Bolstered by the tremendous chemistry between Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan, Kill Your Darlings casts a vivid spotlight on an early chapter in the story of the Beat Generation." On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 65 out of 100, based on 36 reviews, indicating "Generally Favorable" reviews. The film earned $1,030,064 in limited release.
The Daily Telegraph granted the film a score of three out of five stars, stating that, "Unlike Walter Salles's recent adaptation of On the Road, which embraced the Beat philosophy with a wide and credulous grin, Kill Your Darlings is inquisitive about the movement's worth, and the genius of its characters is never assumed". Reviewing Kill Your Darlings after its showing at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, critic Damon Wise of The Guardian lauded the film for being "the real deal, a genuine attempt to source the beginning of America's first true literary counterculture of the 20th century". Kill Your Darlings, wrote Wise, "creates a true sense of energy and passion, for once eschewing the clacking of typewriter keys to show artists actually talking, devising, and ultimately daring each other to create and innovate. And though it begins as a murder-mystery, Kill Your Darlings may be best described as an intellectual moral maze, a story perfectly of its time and yet one that still resonates today." Wise awarded the film four out of five stars. Justin Chang of Variety wrote, "A mysterious Beat Generation footnote is fleshed out with skilled performances, darkly poetic visuals and a vivid rendering of 1940s academia in Kill Your Darlings. Directed with an assured sense of style that pushes against the narrow confines of its admittedly fascinating story, John Krokidas' first feature feels adventurous yet somewhat hemmed-in as it imagines a vortex of jealousy, obsession and murder that engulfed Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac in the early days of their literary revolution."
Historical inaccuracies or questionable assertions
Ginsberg's "long-time confidant and secretary, head of the Allen Ginsberg Trust," Bob Rosenthal, argues that the film is "a superb evocation of young college students in the midst of World War II finding their unique means of expression in the world." However, he states, it also contains a number of inaccuracies: "The large fabrications in the film are not so worrisome as the small ones. In any case, when the truth is stepped on and the nuance of truth is denied, the message becomes moribund." Caleb Carr went on to describe Kammerer as a sexual predator 14 years older than Lucien Carr, who first met Lucien when the latter was pubescent and had repeatedly taken advantage of the younger man's naivete and desperation for a strong male influence after being abandoned by his natural father. Furthermore, Kerouac, who wanted only platonic friendship from Lucien, provoked the jealousy of Kammerer. In contrast, according to Jack Kerouac's biographer Dennis McNally's account, Lucien Carr had always insisted, which William Burroughs (a childhood friend of Kammerer in St. Louis) believed, that he never had sex with Kammerer.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipients||Result|
|BFI London Film Festival||October 19, 2013||Sutherland Trophy||John Krokidas||Nominated|
|Gotham Awards||December 2, 2013||Breakthrough Actor||Dane DeHaan||Nominated|
|Hamptons International Film Festival||October 12, 2013||Breakthrough Performer||Dane DeHaan||Won|
|Palm Springs International Film Festival||January 5, 2013||Directors to Watch||John Krokidas||Won|
|Sundance Film Festival||January 26, 2013||Grand Jury Prize||Nominated|
|Venice Film Festival||September 7, 2013||The Venice Days International Award||Won|
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- Chang, Justin (January 18, 2013). "Sundance film festival 2013: Kill Your Darlings - first look review". Variety. Retrieved January 18, 2013.
- Rosenthal, Bob (February 6, 2013). "Kill Your Darlings-A dissenting voice". The Allen Ginsberg Project.
- McNally, Dennis, Desolate Angel, Da Capo Press edition, 2003, p. 67
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