Film Review: Kill Your Darlings

KYD‘Kill Your Darlings’ is one of a series of recent films about the writers of the Beat Generation and focuses on an event considered by many critics to be the Beats’ darkest moment: the murder of David Kammerer by Lucien Carr.

Carr was not a writer but served as a focal point in bringing Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac together.  His stalker David Kammerer was eventually murdered by Carr and the cover-up that followed touched all three principal Beat writers in a number of different ways.

The film also follows Ginsberg’s developing literary awareness at Columbia University (brilliantly portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe). The wild partying that was so characteristic of the Beats throughout their literary careers is vividly portrayed against a significant musical backdrop of bebop jazz.  However the pranks and mayhem which ensued (and which frequently antagonised the University’s authorities) is simply a backdrop to the sinister undercurrent of abusive exploitation that lead to the stabbing of David Kammerer.

The events which followed have been the subject of much debate and the film doesn’t extend that debate, merely offering the viewer one perspective on events in Riverside Park New York on August 13th, 1944

‘Kill Your Darlings’ successfully chronicles the tensions, both creative and sexual, that underpinned this moment in time when the three men who were to form the core of the Beat Generation came to know each other.  Lucien Carr was highly instrumental in this meeting of what was to become the greatest post war literary movement in America, even though he left the group shortly after his acquittal.

The film maintains a constant dramatic tension achieved through the intertwining of its darkest theme with the ‘kicks and joy’ that has become the trademark of the Beats. As such, it works well within boundaries and avoids the rambling that many felt was evident in the film of On the Road.


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