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The madness behind the man who killed a legend
The Killing Of John Lennon (DVD)
Member Name: IzzyS
The Killing Of John Lennon (DVD)
Date: 21/09/11, updated on 22/09/11 (125 review reads)
Advantages: Engrossing, atmospheric, obviously based on a true story/offers an insight into real events
Disadvantages: Some will find this a bit distasteful
- Story -
This is pretty much a case of 'it does what it says on the tin' so to speak, in that its about the killing of John Lennon but don't mistake that for meaning that its all about John, as its really all about the killer, Mark David Chapman. The film starts with Mark at home in Hawaii with his wife and mother and it continues through until when he shot and killed John Lennon and even what happened afterwards, with a basic rundown of what happened from the end of the last scene described in text just before the credits roll at the end.
- Thoughts and Opinions -
This is very much an indie movie, it has quite a gritty feel to it, with the narration by the killer himself in a garbled or otherwise slightly distorted tone, which adds to the surreal tone of the movie. Although the movie is based on whats known of Chapmans life, of course its a dramatisation and as such, it can't be 100% accurate but it certainly does quite a good job of painting this image of a clearly unstable mans life and of providing an insight to his very distorted way of thinking, his presumed reasoning behind that tragic shooting, although its hard to really understand fully his reasonings given the fact that he was clearly mentally ill.
The movie doesn't just cover Chapman's clear love for The Catcher In The Rye (Mark keeps referring to the catcher in the rye and the character Holden Caulfield, how he believes he somehow fortold or predicted what he was going to do - the quote often repeated throughout the movie being 'the phoney must die said The Catcher In The Rye'), his decision to move to New York and carry out that 'dastardly deed', indeed it tries to give an insight into his family life back 'home' in Hawaii (though, as others point out, he doesn't sound like he comes from Hawaii and indeed he clarifies that he was originally from Georgia), with scenes involving a seemingly rather distant (and painfully unaware it seems) wife and a frustrated mother, as well as scenes covering his dealings with the police after being arrested and his subseqent time spent in a psychiatric hospital, where he's interviewed by a member of staff. Fans of Lennon may well be frustrated to see the effort police went to, to protect Chapman from members of the public who were so angry at him (of course there were people who issued death threats towards him too - I'd imagine the hysteria that occured at the time John died (in terms of the impact his death had in relation to popular culture) was similar to that of Michael Jacksons passing and there are certainly plenty of people who want Conrad Murray to be under lock and key, im sure.
Of course the title of the movie and indeed the plot is all about the killing that made Chapman famous, yet the movie is really about him, his background, his thoughts/method and not about Lennon, who only features in the present time (ie the time he was killed, as in 1980) for the briefest of moments. If your looking for a film that goes into detail about Johns life and times and all about the Beatles popularity etc. then this is not for you, indeed it could well frustrate you in a sense in that I felt there was a slight tone to it, more towards the end perhaps, that makes you pity him, which would likely make some peoples blood boil - why feel sorry for someone who did such a horrible act and robbed the world of somebody who was so important etc. Having said all that, this film shouldn't really be criticised for that, I mean its supposed to be about him and I felt that it was quite absorbing for an indie film, creating a rather spooky atmosphere with a slightly off centre narration explaining what you were seeing as a clearly unstable character was drawn deeper into the world his mind saw, becoming more detached from reality and ultimately its up to the viewer to come to their own conclusion(s) about Chapman, whether you feel any pity for him or not. Back to what I was saying earlier about the focus not being on the Beatles and I should probably point out that while this is the case, there is some footage of the group featured on a couple of ocassions/scenes, footage of the group out and about, posing for photos and a conference or two I believe, though the narration talks over the audio at points.
This does mainly feel like a work of fiction, although im sure that the main aspects of it are based on facts gained from numerous interviews with him and those who encountered him (such as other fans (groupies?) who he introduced himself to as a fellow fan, prior to the killing). Its intriguing and should interest those who are fascinated by the psychology behind killers and suchlike, although apart from that im not sure who else would particularly enjoy it, as I couldn't comment on exactly how accurate it is and as I say, those who were around when the killing occured and who were upset and moved by it, may well find it in a way offensive (not everyone but some may, seeing it as a bit tacky to put the emphasis and possibly a very slight sympathetic slant into someone who should never have been allowed to travel and needed to seek help long before - I'm not sure that pity is necessarily appropriate, yes he clearly was/is seriously troubled and has mental illness(es) but I'm a little uncomfortable with the idea of pitying him in a sense...it does make you think that its uncomfortable to know that society missed the signs and couldn't identify him as being such a troubled individual before he did what he did though). In a sense its sad if Chapman knows about this movie, as its clear by the end of the film that he had a craving for attention and so making such films may only add more to his sense of self worth, that he's still getting some sort of fame and notoriety even over 20 years after the event, which could be seen as distasteful. I don't really wish to get into a debate about the morals behind the film as such, the fact is its been made and its up to you whether this is something that you'd find interesting, if the case (as it were) is one that has peaked your interest, if you'd like to see a dramatisation of what we believe went on in the mind of the disturbed killer, so otherwise I'll just say that I think its a pretty interesting movie that should interest those with a desire to get into the mind of a killer.
I'm sure there is an audience for the film, with people including those of my generation who grew up learning what an impact The Beatles and John Lennon himself had on UK and US popular culture in the 60s and 70s and the fact that Johns life was tragically cut short - for us its probably more interesting to see such a film that gives an idea of what happened, at least as far as I'm concerned I never knew that much about it and I became curious to watch this film and learn more about what had happened after catching a documentary about the murder on ITV last month, on the anniversary of Johns death (and subsequently I found another review of this film on Ciao, which led to me adding it to my rental list). As I say, I found it quite an engrossing watch - Jonas Ball certainly played his part well, depicting Mark as a rather peculiar, dishevelled man - the scenes in which his anger gets the better of him are pretty chilling and I would say that he looks the part, although of course its a fair question to ask what does a killer look like? oh he looks like someone who would do such an act, thats perhaps a peculiar and even possibly dangerously stereotyped thing to say but I did feel like the character on screen seemed very believable given their story and what occured, it didn't seem too sterile, if that makes any sense.
- Would I Recommend It? -
Yes, I suppose I would, as long as your aware of the slant this movie takes and you won't be offended by the fact that its all about Chapman and of course I can't outright confirm its accuracy at all, I'd say that this is a movie which is worth a watch. I felt that it was quite an absorbing movie which gave a (rather unsettling) insight into Chapman's clearly troubled mind and his detachment from the real world. The narration makes it feel more 'real' somehow and even this is somehow detached by the voice being quite garbled and there are some visuals which also, uh visualise the links in his thinking, what was troubling him and so on, it all adds to a sense of surrealism which makes the film quite engrossing somehow.
This won't be a film that everyone will love or hate, im sure there are very different opinions about it depending on who you ask but as im only really here to rate and review the film for what it is, I'd personally rate this with four stars, as a good film, though not quite excellent, with the one star off being that it won't suit everyones taste and a slight sense that perhaps it pities him a bit, I think - certainly there was a part of me that was somehow uncomfortable with the way the police treated him (thats not to say that its not accurate but I didn't much like it either).
Thanks for reading my review, I hope you found it useful - thanks for all rates and comments. This review was originally posted on Ciao UK.
Summary: A drama based on a true story but is it too sensational, distasteful even? thats up to you to decide