Kill Your Darlings

Kill Your Darlings (15)

The poets of the Beat Generation were making waves before they were famous. Some of them were even killing people. But mostly they were engaged in their own private and personal revolution.

Kill Your Darlings focuses on that intense period in the 1940s when the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, William S Burroughs and Jack Kerouac were breaking down the boundaries of tradition and literature.

The film, from John Krokidas, is mostly concerned with the adventures of 19-year-old Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), a Jewish kid in the big city who arrives at Columbia University and discovers a brave new world of booze, drugs and gay sex.

His partner in crime is Carr (Dane DeHaan), a brilliantly bright fellow student and mischief-maker. Together they form part of the so-called Libertine Circle – young men unfettered by the morality of the age.

Carr is presented as an explorer who requires an acolyte to make himself whole. Ginsberg, an outsider and free-thinker on his own voyage of discovery, fits the bill. He’s always observing and soaking up what he sees. In Carr’s companionship and influence he finds his voice. He also finds his sexual identity.

Krokidas also considers the oppressive relationship between Carr and David Kammerer, a teacher who had an unhealthy and predatory obsession with the younger man. It is dealt with in shadowy form: did Carr encourage Kammerer in his stalking, or did he flee from it? And was Kammerer’s death a result of panic or premeditation?

The film is notable as being the latest in a series to showcase the maturing talents of Radcliffe. Unafraid to seek out controversial fare, here he engages in sexual activity with men and women. Clearly it is part of a plan: to engage with older audiences and to exorcise the ghost of a certain teenage wizard.

He succeeds, and with glory. Radcliffe’s ever-watchful Ginsberg is a balance to the flamboyant Carr and acts as both counterpoint and Boswell, recording it all via his wide eyes.

Star rating: ****

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