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Kill Your Darlings (2013 film)

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Kill Your Darlings (2013 film)

Kill Your Darlings
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Krokidas
Produced by
Screenplay by John Krokidas
Austin Bunn
Story by Austin Bunn
Music by Nico Muhly
Cinematography Reed Morano
Edited by Brian A. Kates
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics
Release dates
  • January 18, 2013 (2013-01-18) (Sundance)
  • October 16, 2013 (2013-10-16) (United States)
Running time 104 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1,686,065[2][3]

Kill Your Darlings is a 2013 American biographical drama film written by Austin Bunn and directed by John Krokidas in his feature film directorial debut. The film had its world premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, garnering positive first reactions. It was shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival,[4] and it had a limited theatrical North American release from October 16, 2013.[5] Kill Your Darlings also became available on Blu-ray and DVD, March 18, 2014 in the US, followed by its UK release on April 21, 2014.[6]

The story is about the college days of some of the earliest members of the Beat Generation (Lucien Carr, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and David Kammerer), their interactions, and the killing in Riverside Park.


As a young man in the 1940s, poet Allen Ginsberg wins a place at Columbia University in New York City. He arrives as a very inexperienced freshman, but soon runs into Lucien Carr, who is very anti-establishment and rowdy.

After a while, Ginsberg discovers that Carr only manages to stay at Columbia thanks to a somewhat older man, a professor, David Kammerer, who writes all of his term papers for him, and seems perhaps to have been an ex-lover of Carr's. It appears that Kammerer is still in love with Carr, and is revealed to be pressuring Carr for sexual favors, in exchange for assuring that he cannot be expelled.

Ginsberg soon meets, through Carr, William S. Burroughs, already far into drug experimentation. The writer Jack Kerouac, who was a sailor at that time and expelled from Columbia, also meets and spends time with them. Ginsberg takes part in various extreme escapades with this extraordinary group of people.

Carr eventually tells Kammerer he is done with him, and recruits Ginsberg (who has a crush on him) to write his term papers instead. After a while, Kerouac and Carr attempt to run off and join the merchant marine together, hoping to go to Paris.

There is a confrontation between Carr and Kammerer, during which Kammerer is killed by stabbing (and perhaps also by drowning). Carr is arrested, and asks Ginsberg to write his deposition for him. Ginsberg is at first reluctant to help the unstable Carr, but after digging up more crucial evidence on Kammerer and his past relationship, he writes a piece entitled "The Night in Question". The piece describes a more emotional event, in which Carr kills Kammerer who outright tells him to after being threatened with the knife, devastated by this final rejection. Carr rejects the 'fictional' story, and begs a determined Ginsberg to not reveal it to anybody, afraid that it will ruin him in the ensuing trial.

We learn from Carr's mother that Kammerer was the first person to seduce Carr, when he was much younger and lived in Chicago. After the trial we find out that Carr testified that the attack took place only because Kammerer was a sexual predator, and that Carr killed him in self-defense. Carr is not convicted of murder and receives only a short sentence for manslaughter.

Ginsberg then submits "The Night in Question" as his final term paper. On the basis of that shocking piece of prose, Ginsberg is faced with possible expulsion from Columbia. Either he must be expelled or he must embrace establishment values. He chooses the former, but is forced to leave his typescript behind. A week or two later he receives the typescript in the mail with an encouraging letter from his professor telling him to pursue his writing.



In 2008, while performing Equus on Broadway, Daniel Radcliffe auditioned and got the part of Ginsberg. Radcliffe went on to film the last two Harry Potter films, Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2, and with him unavailable for filming, Chris Evans, Jesse Eisenberg, and Ben Whishaw were cast without Radcliffe. Shortly after, financing for the film fell through. When director John Krokidas started production on the film again, he offered the role of Ginsberg back to Radcliffe.


Critical reaction

Kill Your Darlings received an overall rating of 76% from critics at Rotten Tomatoes (96 fresh and 31 rotten reviews).[7] On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 65 out of 100, based on 36 reviews, indicating "Generally Favorable" reviews.[8]

The Daily Telegraph granted the film a score of three out of five stars, stating that, "Unlike Walter Salles's recent adaptation of On the Road, which embraced the Beat philosophy with a wide and credulous grin, Kill Your Darlings is inquisitive about the movement's worth, and the genius of its characters is never assumed".[9] Reviewing Kill Your Darlings after its showing at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, critic Damon Wise of The Guardian lauded the film for being "the real deal, a genuine attempt to source the beginning of America's first true literary counterculture of the 20th century". Kill Your Darlings, wrote Wise, "creates a true sense of energy and passion, for once eschewing the clacking of typewriter keys to show artists actually talking, devising, and ultimately daring each other to create and innovate. And though it begins as a murder-mystery, Kill Your Darlings may be best described as an intellectual moral maze, a story perfectly of its time and yet one that still resonates today." Wise awarded the film four out of five stars.[10] Justin Chang of Variety wrote, "A mysterious Beat Generation footnote is fleshed out with skilled performances, darkly poetic visuals and a vivid rendering of 1940s academia in 'Kill Your Darlings.' Directed with an assured sense of style that pushes against the narrow confines of its admittedly fascinating story, John Krokidas' first feature feels adventurous yet somewhat hemmed-in as it imagines a vortex of jealousy, obsession and murder that engulfed Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac in the early days of their literary revolution."[11]

Historical inaccuracies

Ginsberg's "long-time confidant and secretary, head of the Allen Ginsberg Trust," Bob Rosenthal, argues that the film is "a superb evocation of young college students in the midst of World War II finding their unique means of expression in the world." However, he states, it also contains a number of inaccuracies: "The large fabrications in the film are not so worrisome as the small ones. In any case, when the truth is stepped on and the nuance of truth is denied, the message becomes moribund."[12] Lucien Carr's son, Caleb Carr also stated that the film was inaccurate, describing it as "a tired, ludicrous reading of the story of the murder case; and like all the other terribly inaccurate readings that have been put out there, it was based almost entirely on Allen Ginsberg’s versions of events. And Allen had an awful lot of reasons for revising the facts to suit a narrative that served his ego and his agenda far more effectively than it did the truth."[13]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients and nominees Result
BFI London Film Festival October 19, 2013 Sutherland Trophy John Krokidas Nominated
Gotham Awards[14] December 2, 2013 Best Breakthrough Actor Dane DeHaan Nominated
Hamptons International Film Festival[15] October 12, 2013 Breakthrough Performer Dane DeHaan Won
Jack Huston Won
Palm Springs International Film Festival[16] January 5, 2013 Directors to Watch John Krokidas Won
Sundance Film Festival[17] January 26, 2013 Grand Jury Prize Nominated
Venice Film Festival[18] September 7, 2013 The Venice Days International Award Won

See also


  1. ^ (15)"KILL YOUR DARLINGS '". The Works.  
  2. ^ "Kill Your Darlings".  
  3. ^ "Kill Your Darlings". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 3, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Toronto film festival 2013: the full line-up".  
  5. ^ Chitwood, Adam (June 7, 2013). "KILL YOUR DARLINGS Set for October 18th Release; Matthew McConaughey’s DALLAS BUYERS CLUB Opens December 6th". Retrieved June 8, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Kill Your Darlings 2013 - Movie Rental & DVD Release Dates". Retrieved February 11, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Kill Your Darlings (2013)".  
  8. ^ "Kill Your Darlings".  
  9. ^ Collin, Robbie (September 5, 2013). "Kill Your Darlings, Venice Film Festival, review".  
  10. ^ Wise, Damon (January 20, 2013). "Sundance film festival 2013: Kill Your Darlings - first look review".  
  11. ^ Chang, Justin (January 18, 2013). "Sundance film festival 2013: Kill Your Darlings - first look review".  
  12. ^ Rosenthal, Bob (Feb 6, 2013). "Kill Your Darlings-A dissenting voice". The Allen Ginsberg Project. 
  13. ^ Judge, Mark (Feb 24, 2014). "Son of famous Beat murderer Lucien Carr disputes ‘Kill Your Darlings’ film’s version of events". Daily Caller. 
  14. ^ Schoenbrun, Dan (24 October 2013). "Nominees Announced for the 23rd Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards By IFP".  
  15. ^ "Variety’s 10 Actors to Watch Honored at Hamptons Film Festival".  
  16. ^ Janosik, Erin (6 August 2013). "WATCH: Daniel Radcliffe in ‘Kill Your Darlings’ Teaser".  
  17. ^ "‘Kill Your Darlings’ slays Venice".  
  18. ^ "The Venice Days International Award goes to Kill Your Darlings". Venice Days. 07/09/2013. 

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