“In writing, you must kill your darlings,” said William Faulkner. Apt advice for any author, it’s a maxim that applies quite well to the work of Alan Ginsberg and his fellow beat poets, who pushed boundaries and shattered conventions as they explored life’s mysteries.
“Kill Your Darlings” is also the perfect title for John Krokidas’ new film about the nascent Beat Generation, following a young Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) over the course of his Columbia University stint in 1944.
It’s a coming of age tale about a revolutionary writer finding himself that frames Ginsberg’s professional development against his increasingly close friendship with fellow student Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) and the unsettling relationship between Carr and one-time professor David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall).
The movie is fundamentally a look at how Allen Ginsberg became Allen Ginsberg, so it’s rife with the thrill of artistic discovery. There are scenes of the poet shaping his frenzied writing process, rebelling against conventions and experiencing the joy that comes with being freed from the shackles of literary restrictions.
The dialogue skews toward hyper-intellectual inflections, but that’s about right for conversations between Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston).
Radcliffe leaves behind Harry Potter for good with a mature, fully realized performance that conveys the excitement and uncertainty of Ginsberg’s beginnings. “Kill Your Darlings” subscribes to the same theory espoused by countless superhero movies — namely that the best way to dig below the surface of an iconic figure is through a return to where it all began. Put another way, it’s a convincing attempt to be Ginsberg’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” a story of the end of youth and the birth of a legend.
"Kill Your Darlings"
Directed by John Krokidas
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, Ben Foster
Playing at Sunshine Cinema