Kill Your Darlings Film Review

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  • 8/12/2019 Kill Your Darlings Film Review


    Kill Your Darlings

    Film Review by Robb Chadwick

  • 8/12/2019 Kill Your Darlings Film Review


    Kill Your Darlingsis one of the best films of2013 and certainly the most interesting filmthat I've seen regarding the group ofindividuals collectively referred to asTheBeats. It has recently been released on DVDand video (for rent or purchase). The movie

    covers only a short period of time in theirlives which includes the pivotal event whichhelped to shape their future and provide asignificant contribution to their futureliterary work.

    Kill Your Darlingsbegins with Allen Ginsberg(played by Daniel Radcliffe) enrolling atColumbia University, meeting Lucien Carr(played by Dane DeHaan). Lucien Carr thenintroduces Ginsberg to David Kammerer

    (played by Michael C Hall), William SBurroughs (played by Ben Foster) and JackKerouac (played by Jack Huston). During thefirst part of the film, we see them interact inways that gives us insight into their thoughtprocesses and their unique approach to theworld. This is an interesting introduction to

    he Beats; but it is not the main subject of thisfilm.


    If you are not familiar with the murder ofDavid Kammerer or prefer to see the film

    before knowing more about it, stop readingnow; but please come back once you've seenthe film to read more. Comments anddiscussion are always welcome.

    Lucien Carr was nineteen years old when hemurdered David Kammerer who wasapproximately fifteen years his senior. The

    two formed a close relationship when Lucienwas only fourteen while both were living inSt Louis. David Kammerer was obviouslytotally infatuated with Lucien Carr. That isnot in dispute. Over the years as Lucienmoved from school to school, David alsomoved to Lucien's new location so that hecould be near the younger man. What is indispute is Lucien's actual feelings about

    David Kammerer and the extent of theirphysical relationship. You will see manyaccounts which paint Kammerer as a stalker;

    but if you dig more deeply into the facts, it isapparent that Carr did not totally object toDavid's affection and did not seriously

    attempt to extricate himself from therelationship. In fact it is clear that regardlessof the extent of their physical relationship,Lucien made ample use of Kammerer when itsuited him.

    Let's get one sticky point out of the way rightnow. Fifteen years is a big age difference inany relationship; and it is certainly even morea problem when one of the two is a teenager.However, before assigning labels like child

    molestation, statutory rape or similar terms, Ithink we do need to remember the timeperiod during which these events occurred.The legal age of consent was generally muchlower at that time than it is today. In fact, itmay surprise you to learn that until fairlyrecently fourteen was still the legal age ofconsent in a few states; fifteen was even morecommon. Today the age of consent has beenraised in almost all states with sixteen beingthe most common. However, in the first andmiddle part of the twentieth century thingswere different. Young people grew up fasterthen. Im certainly not suggesting that thiswas a good thing; but when we considerevents from a different period of time, it maynot be wise to judge them by current daystandards.

    With that out of the way, lets continue bysaying that over the years Lucien Carr

    accompanied David Kammerer on trips thatincluded only the two of them andmaintained a close relationship in severallocales. As far as we know, Lucien nevermade a serious attempt to end therelationship or dissuade David in a very realway. Even though Luciens mother did notapprove of the relationship, she also didnothing terribly definitive toward ending it.

  • 8/12/2019 Kill Your Darlings Film Review


    When Lucien attempted to commit suicidethe year before the events in this film unfold,David saved his life and was listed as thenext of kin on the hospital admitting form.

    AsKill Your Darlingsopens, it is 1944; and the

    locale is New York City. Lucien is nineteenand David is about thirty four. In some waysit does appear that Lucien is now finallyready to move on without David Kammererin his life. Lucien makes new friends andcomplains about David to them. However,Lucien still allows David to be a part of hislife. One of the first events in the film showsLucien taking Allen Ginsberg to Davidsapartment to attend a party. In fact hecontinues to allow David to tag along with

    him and his new friends wherever they go.He uses David to write school papers forhim. Lucien spends alone time with Davidand seems unsure whether he wants toactually remove David from his life. Asevents unfold, there comes a time when thetwo of them are on a walk alone together in apark on the upper west side of Manhattanwhere an argument occurs and Lucien stabsDavid in the chest several times with a knife.David is mortally wounded but not yet dead.Lucien weighs David down by placing rocksin his pockets and drags him into the HudsonRiver to drown. Lucien takes Davidseyeglasses and the murder weapon with him.

    Lucien seeks advice from William SBurroughs, who advises Lucien to get alawyer and turn himself in; but Luciendoesnt especially like that advice at the oddmoment. He turns to Jack Kerouac who helps

    him dispose of the glasses and knife andaccompanies Lucien on a day of drinking,museum visiting, cinema hopping and thelike. Eventually Lucien does turn himself in,claims that the murder was a result ofdefending his honor against a homosexualadvance and eventually gets a light sentencein a reformatory. (Did I mention that it was1944? Homosexual panic was a much easier

    defense back then than it is today.)

    William S Burroughs and Jack Kerouac werealso arrested as accessories. Things workedout even better for them as they spent littletime in jail before making bail. Even though

    it is clear from their later writing about thecrime that they were aware of thecomplexities of the case, they both decidedthat since David Kammerer was dead andLucien Carr was alive, it was best to throwtheir support behind Luciens defense andnot raise any doubt about its authenticity.

    Lucien Carr served eighteen months for themurder of David Kammerer in a reformatoryinstead of a prison. He went on to become a

    respected journalist for UPI and was marriedand had children. He maintained hisfriendship with Ginsberg, Burroughs &Kerouac for the rest of their lives but neversought fame or recognition in the same wayhis friends did.

    Let us now turn to the final point of dispute.Was the relationship between Lucien Carrand David Kammerer a physical one?KillYour Darlingsunfolds from the point of viewof Allen Ginsberg who certainly believed thatthe relationship between Kammerer and Carreither was or had been very physical.Ginsberg states in his memoirs and elsewherethat he also had a physical relationship withLucien Carr during the first part of theirfriendship and provides other interestingpersonal observations regarding Luciensrelationships with men. William S Burroughssaid that he did not believe the relationship

    between Kammerer and Carr was physical;but that statement may have been an attemptto help and reinforce Lucien Carrs honordefense for the murder of David Kammerer.We know from the later writing of Ginsberg,Burroughs and Kerouac that none wereunaware of the complexities of the situation.

  • 8/12/2019 Kill Your Darlings Film Review


    Another point of view regarding therelationship between Carr and Kammerer isoffered by the author, Caleb Carr (LuciensCarrs son), in a recent posting on the internet.After reading the lengthy piece, I couldnt finda great deal with it that differed from the

    movie except for one thing. Caleb Carr seemedvery determined to prove that his father wasNOT gay. He had no trouble referring to hisfather as a monster, abuser and good atusing homosexuals for his own benefit. Heaccused his father of abusing him when he wasa youngster; but he wanted to assure thereader that his father was not a homosexual. Icouldnt help but think that I would personallyprefer a father who was a closet homosexual toone who was a monster, abuser and clever

    manipulator of the gay people in his life. CalebCarr seems also to be convinced that this filmis part of a Hollywood homosexual agenda toprove that all men are gay. Im not sure Iunderstand that viewpoint. Nothing about thefilm suggests that viewpoint at all.

    I highly recommend this film.