The world of cinema is for many people an inseparable part of life. It was not so long ago when people massively watched shows and movies on their TVs – one might say addictively. Now, most of us turn on Netflix to binge-watch series and rewatch favorite films or series that are never-ending – but we still love them because we grew up watching them. For a creative, films can achieve even more than these feelings of nostalgia and being entertained.
Personally, I feel attached to movies and series because I feel like I can escape reality and live another life. Apart from comedies by Seth Rogen, romantic movies that make me cry when I need it, thrillers that give me literal chills (like series The Alienist or The Sinner) or Marvel movies, I also very much enjoy films that have a deeper meaning. Films with ideas to make you think about the purpose of life, depth of the art or the multitude of cultures that exist. Films so fascinating and inspiring that I cannot stop thinking about them for months and when I finally do, I feel like creating. Because when you watch a movie about a writer’s life and you want to become a writer yourself, it is not just a movie for you, it is a motivation, an inspiration, an artistic manifestation. Something that leads you. Something that makes you feel, create, exist.
One such film for me is Rebel in the Rye (2017). It is an American biographical drama that tells the story of J. D. Salinger and his path from being an ordinary young lad to becoming a famous writer of the renowned bestseller The Catcher in the Rye. This motion picture takes us on Salinger’s journey through his love for Oona O’Neill, the Second World War, his first chapters about Holden, until he achieved fame that many say developed overnight. It also shows us how Salinger started writing while studying at Columbia University in New York, where he was trying to impress his teacher Whit Burnett and write a perfect short story for the magazine Story. Thanks to that teacher, Salinger once started writing a narration of Holden’s life.
At the beginning of the movie, Whit Burnett asks Salinger a very important question: “You see, Jerry, this is what you need to be doing in your writing. Explore what it is that makes you angry and then put that into a story. But here’s the catch. You still may never publish. You may spend the rest of your life being rejected. And now, you have to ask yourself a question. Are you willing to devote your life to telling stories knowing that you may get nothing in return?” Well, now, this is a clever yet tricky premise. If the answer is no, then it is easy and you are not a true writer. If it is yes, then you may become the person you want to be and do more than just putting words onto paper – you become a writer. Why do authors write? Are they actually willing to spend their life writing stories but not get paid? Salinger found the answer to those questions later, also finding freedom in the knowledge that the most important thing is to write, not to publish.
This movie is a beautiful tale for aspiring writers because it can be a huge inspiration, propelling you to do something with your writing. At least that was the case for me since the film gave me freedom, space and a new point-of-view on what writing is really about.
A second movie I would like to talk about is Howl from 2010, which is also a biographical film. It is about none other than Allen Ginsberg and the lawsuit about his controversial poetry and how it formed the Beat Generation. It was October 1956 when the publishing house City Lights Booksellers and Publishers printed a collection of poems called Howl and Other Poems. Not even a year after that, police arrested Lawrence Ferlinghetti, City Light co-founder, and put him on trial for obscenity. This case actually led to a sharp increase in sales and Ginsberg became a symbol for fighting for sexual freedom and against conservative social norms.
For those who do not know, the Beat Generation was a movement of American poets and writers from the 50s and 60s who used their works and opinions to demonstrate disagreement with consumer society and conservatism. Howl, shows us not only Ginsberg but also Jack Kerouac (known for On the Road), Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso and Peter Orlovsky, the love of Ginsberg’s life with whom he spent most of his days until his death in 1997.
If you ask me for my opinion on Ginsberg, I would say that both his persona and his poetry fascinate me. It is not really easy to grasp and understand his works, but the purpose of art is not always ordinary or to be understood. It is mostly to convey a thought or a feeling, to vomit emotions and ideas onto a paper or canvas. Art is not supposed to be normal, or insincere. This motion picture is an open speech by Allen Ginsberg who brought one big hurricane to the world of modern literature. He brought us poetry that gives us more than just freedom. His poetry opens our eyes, that makes us honest and sincere from the depth of our hearts and that teaches us to be open and to stand up for ourselves.