Kill Your Darlings is a romantic-murder mystery (or perhaps a murder-romantic mystery) expanding in a capillary manner form a real, but not so documented, fact: the murder of David Kamerer by the object of his infatuation and sexual desire, Columbia University freshman Lucien Carr, in NYC in 1944.
A gay related murder in an age when homosexuality is still incriminated, that’s enough to fill any director’s plate, but this case has a very particular posthumous attraction to it. Lucien Carr is the man who introduced Allen Ginsberg to Jack Kerouac and both of them to William S. Burroughs and was an important figure in what would later became known as the Beat Generation.
A very dense subject indeed and the film has received criticism for it’s holistic approach, trying to tell too many stories and ultimately failing to tell a single one. While the premise can not be denied (the capillary expansion into all aspects of the story: the murder, the Beat origins, Ginsberg`s coming of age sexually and creatively, Lucien Carr’s relationship with Kamerer), the outcome is a matter of how much is the viewer willing to let director John Krokidas get away with.
While at some moments very well documented, the film seems to operate and twist real facts and characters into deliberate fiction, a romanticized view over the whole affair that becomes a sort of ritual sacrifice, a founding murder of the Beat movement. Every film based on “a true story” has to rely on some kind of creative license in order to fill in the gaps. This movie is special because the process seems to be flowing backwards: the gaps are not filled with fiction derived from the historical context but rather from what the Beat culture and it’s prophets came to be years after the incident. From this point of view, Kill Your Darlings, is in fact, a crash course in Beat ethos condensed in the time frame of a few months, when Ginsberg, Burroughs and Kerouac were not the Ginsberg, Burroughs and Kerouac that have made it through to the English literature manuals.
In the end, it comes down to the viewer and his ability to experience the Beat movement through the duality of this film. Had it been completely accurate from a historical point of view, the film wouldn’t have been entertaining, so upbeat. Had it been utter fiction, just some young guys having fun, planning a literary revolution, maybe even succeeding, the film would have lacked the incredible appeal of the actual Beat counterculture and it’s very recognizable darlings.
by Andrei Șendrea.