DIR: Klaartje Quirijns • WRI: Klaartje Quirijns, Thomas den Drijver • PRO: TGertjan Langeland, Sander Verdonk • DOP: Diderik Evers, Martijn van Broekhuizen • CAST: Anton Corbijn, Bono, Martin Gore
Anton Corbijn: Inside Out is a documentary profiling the titular Corbijn: photographer to the stars, music aficionado and sometimes film director. Corbijn made his name photographing any number of musical talents over the course of three decades: Depeche Mode, U2, Joy Division, Miles Davis, Tom Waits, Arcade Fire, Nirvana, Metallica, Lou Reed etc… etc… In more recent times, the Dutchman has made the move into filmmaking (having honed his craft on several music videos over his lengthy career). His debut was Ian Curits biopic Control, which he followed with the considered George Clooney thriller The American. This documentary loosely covers the latter film’s pre-production, production and post-production periods, as well as various other ‘jobs’ over an undisclosed amount of time (Corbijn’s fluctuating facial hair being a good indicator that time has indeed passed between individual sequences).
An inherent problem with documentaries such as this is that there’s a tendency to have interviewees endlessly wax lyrical about the subject. While there’s certainly a few moments of superstars praising Corbijn’s talents – including Wim Butler, Bono, James Hetfield and George Clooney – the film largely resists the temptation of repetitive hyperbole and takes a more observant approach. Barring the multitude of conversations with Corbijn himself, the interviews largely take place within the locations where Corbijn is working. The filmmakers talk to Bono while Corbijn waits for a Polaroid to develop on Sandycove beach, and Clooney in between takes on The American set. It’s an approach that works well, and throughout the documentary director Klaartje Quirijns allows us to simply observe Corbijn’s working habits without redundant running commentary.
The man himself is the modest, quiet and likeable sort. You can tell he has a genuine love for what he’s doing, and a natural talent that makes his work seem almost effortless. In interviews with the documentary crew, he has a tendency for sombre inward reflection as he jets around the world from job to job. For the first half of the film, this is all well and good. But Corbijn’s nature as the transient, lonely artist is emphasised ad nausea in the closing half hour of the film. There’s several shots where he speaks candidly and philosophically to the camera, then walks slowly out of shot as the camera lingers reflectively. It’s a neat trick the first time, but Quirijns repeats it a few times too often. It has the unfortunate side effect of the film looking like its about to cut to black, only for Corbijn to speak candidly and philosophically to the camera, then walk slowly out of shot as the camera lingers reflectively. Again. It’s a tad repetitive. At a mere eighty minutes, there’s the impression that buffing this up to feature length may have been a challenge for the editors.
I don’t want to end this review on a negative note though, as for the most part Inside Out is a thoughtfully constructed and engaging documentary that does a good job of capturing the nature and lifestyle of its chosen subject. And the documentary doesn’t skimp on showing selections of Corbijn’s work. The photography is genuinely great, and while the quality of the video clips vary it gives an excellent overview of his career and workflow (including Super 8 footage captured by Corbijn in the documentary crew’s presence).
Corbijn’s first love is music, so it’s appropriate that there’s a fantastic soundtrack featuring plenty of Arcade Fire and Joy Division, amongst others. While it feels somewhat overstretched, for this most part Anton Corbijn: Inside Out does a fine job celebrating the life and work of a genuinely talented individual.
Anton Corbijn: Inside Out is released 15th September 2012