It’s your first day in university–this prestigious, dream-within-a-dream educational institution where you’ve always imagined yourself inhaling knowledge and making into fruition every ambition you’ve had since you were a kid.
You’re taking in everything your senses can swallow all at once–the musty scent of old books, the natural light filtering from the ceiling-high windows, the buzz of stress and panic and gossip from the lounged students, the mere presence of intellect staining the air.
Suddenly, this beautiful boy with slicked blond hair
stands jumps on a table–
–and theatrically recites a very suggestive piece by Henry Miller:
On a Sunday afternoon, when the
shutters are down and the
proletariat possesses the street…
…there are certain thoroughfares
which remind one of nothing less…
…than a big cancerous cock.
Ah, there goes your heart.
Now owned by that devastatingly handsome stranger being chased away by the security. You’d do anything to see that walking temple of wit and good looks again–and you will.
To be honest, I watched this movie not because I saw an epic trailer or because I was intrigued by the themes or the portrayals. Not even because I’m a big fan of Dane and/or Dan (although I really am), and I religiously watch out for every project they take on. Don’t laugh, but the [shallow] reason why I checked the movie out was not out of a noble cause but because I saw a GIF of Dane Dehaan and Dan Radcliffe making out and as a fan of both actors, it was a scene that delighted me immensely.
(Understatement of the year.)
Kill Your Darlings already appealed to me at first glance. Perhaps even without the influence of seeing two of my favorite actors (I have a long list, but that’s besides the point), I would’ve sought out the movie after seeing the title. You see, the title shows promise to literature buffs like me, especially when I Googled it. The first results were about Faulkner quoting it, while other accounts claimed Nabokov, Wilde and Stephen King; the point is, I was further ensnared by the prospect of the movie because of its title.
Before researching a bit, I thought it meant that one must write about a dead lover or a dead muse to be able to pull off something profound and worthy of the praise of the public. Apparently, they meant another thing but then again, it’s open to interpretation and mine was just a tad too literal. Meh.
Anyway, Kill Your Darlings is a movie by John Krokidas–his first feature movie, turns out–and it’s set during the early stirrings of the so-called Beat Generation founded by a group of literary revolutionaries namely Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Lucien Carr in their misadventures as youths in Columbia University.
Daniel Radcliffe stars as Allen Ginsberg, an innocent freshman with familial problems but big dreams who enters Columbia University and gets caught up in the hurricane of bravado and dangerous charisma that is Lucien Carr, portrayed by Dane Dehaan.
Dane and Dan seriously have chemistry, and this is not just me speaking like a fan of the subtle homoeroticism in the movie.
Everybody knows Dan as The Chosen One; he was my childhood hero as Harry Potter but I’ve been aware of the other roles he had. Not as iconic as Harry Potter and it’s not an insult to his ability as an actor, but then the character of Harry Potter had years to build up loyal fans and franchise since 1997.
Dane, on the other hand–well, I knew him first from his role in Amigo, which is a Filipino-American feature film (and speaking of this, it’s been five years of pining after him and I’ve yet to see Amigo). I saw the trailer when I was in a cinema, and I remember thinking, “Who is this beautiful creature and where could I find him?” Dane Dehaan is so disgustingly beautiful that I can’t even begin to put into words all the feels that I have for him. I saw him again formally in The Amazing Spiderman 2 where he portrayed the new version of Harry Osborn.
Together, Dan and Dane (hehe) made a really nice picture of two fucking intelligent boys, fledglings on their way to reaching the level of W.B. Yeats. Their first scenes–both at the library and the one in the classroom–already displayed a delicious amount of sexual tension (in my eyes). Just the way Ginsberg’s character had looked at Lucien–yep, A+ Admiration with a capital “A” at the very least. Although, to be honest, I really can’t blame him because: devilishly good looks + casual-but-intrinsic literary intellect + a fearless mouth = “Master, I am yours to ravish”.
While I just spent 600+ words describing in detail how good-looking both Ginsberg and Lucien are, there’s actually more to say about the movie aside from the chemistry of these two.
I really don’t know much about the Beat Generation aside from the brief encounter I’ve had with it in my English 11 class. I think we took up Burroughs in class, although I’m not entirely sure; I will have to consult my old class syllabus for this. What I do know is that each character portrayal, given that they’re based off from true people, is an art of its own.
Dan (here I go again) took into his own hands the role of little mousy college freshman turned rebellious little shit of a poet. Um, knitted granny sweaters??? Curly cute hair and glasses??? He took the role and owned it. Ginsberg looked like the kind of friend who blends into the background, the kind who lets his rowdier pals bask in the spotlight while he read his favorite poetry book. But the thing is, it was Ginsberg who was the main eye of the story. The problems he’s dealing with at home, especially his mother. His struggle to fit his art into the structure of institution. His struggle to get Lucien’s attention and keep his interest. His struggle as a writer scrambling to anchor his genius and translate gray matter into paper–and the thing is, I can relate to how hard it is to get a hold of your thoughts and form a semblance of coherence.
The snarky one liners of William S. Burroughs were well-delivered in that dry, deadpan tone that they were such a hit (to me). Burroughs towards the end was like a voice of reason in their ragtag group, although it would be a bit too much to say that he is entirely reasonable; but then, he did advice Lucien to turn himself in when he killed Kammerer.
Don’t even get me started with Dane as Lucien. He held power with his words and the confidence he built around himself as a wall. He was a contending muse, an unconventional but a highly successful one. Lucien destroyed them all and rebuilt them again, with his manipulation and his passionate anti-conformist orations, to suit his tastes and ambitions. He was a magnet, the glue that held their group together when he couldn’t even get a hold of himself. He was a paradox, and to be very honest, overly romanticized. Even in this post, I can’t help but romanticize him.
I’m not qualified to drop criticisms left and right, but over all, the movie felt a bit too much about licentiousness and teenagers with their poetic teenager issues, and less of the start of a literary revolution. However, we can’t just assume that a big literary movement like theirs would have started out smoothly; of course it was bound to be rocky and a little bit too fucked up. Once you put together a bunch of [youthful] geniuses, cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, it’s only a matter of who-what-when-and-where after; there’s no why’s or how’s with brilliant minds like these.
The movie was aesthetic, indeed. But it did not sit well with me no matter how dreamy Lucien was (at first), no matter how good Ginsberg was portrayed, no matter how witty the characters were. It’s not something people would generally watch for fun, I guess; not for the people who are looking for a quick stress relief by watching some movie. I certainly felt stressed out a lot because of it. It’s not a “nice” movie, but you know what they say: Art is supposed to comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable.
I guess the most important thing I got in the movie is that youth is power. All these young impressionable minds like me in educational institutions are like blank canvases waiting for that first splash of color, until the endgame is that we’re all a little bit of a masterpiece of our mentors one way or another.
P.S. I will be forever haunted by the image of a voyeur Lucien watching his Ginsy get his first ever blowjob.