Film Recommendation: Anton Corbijn Inside Out

Film Recommendation: Anton Corbijn Inside Out

Film Recommendation: Anton Corbijn Inside Out (2012), Directed by Klaartje Quirijns

Anton Corbijn is a Dutch photographer, and film director. As a music afficianado, portrait artist of countless famous and influential rock musicians, and creative director for bands like U2 and Depeche Mode, you might expect Corbijn to be a gregarious party animal–a wildman living the rock star lifestyle of the musicians he knows and works with so closely.

After watching the documentary Anton Corbijn Inside Out (2012), it’s quite obvious the exact opposite is true. In fact, Corbijn is a solitary figure, so reserved and withdrawn, one wonders how he ever managed to successfully interact with the larger than life characters he photographs. Even more so, how did he direct major motion pictures like The American (2010, starring George Clooney)? Filmmaking is the consummate group effort, requiring hundreds of participants to bring the director’s vision to fruition.

Through sibling interviews, we learn that Corbijn comes from a loving but non-demonstrative family. His sister tells us that there wasn’t much communication in the household. The together-but-aloof upbringing resulted in a feeling of loneliness, which in turn caused Corbijn to become an observer–to develop his artistic sensibilities. Corbijn himself admits in one especially candid sequence that he lacks the ability to form close relationships.

My question, “how does he do it?” is answered in the course of the film. In fact, he does it very well. We see Corbijn at work, photographing bands like U2 and Metallica. As a photographer, he seems to travel light. Unlike most commercial photographers, he doesn’t bring a truckload of gear and an army of assistants. Rather, he carries one or two cameras and shoots on location in natural light.

Celebrity portrait photography is a genre that I find particularly uninteresting, among the lowest tiers of photography in my opinion. But even this, Corbijn handles with raw power. His contrasty black and white shots pepper the documentary, and they are exquisite.

If you’ve seen The American, you know that its pacing is unusual for an action film. That pacing seems to be the pacing of Anton Corbijn–slow, quiet, stolid, deliberate, but also a little raw. It’s a movie people tend to love or hate. I loved it, but as a photographer I especially enjoyed the visual aspects. Every shot is framed beautifully.

Corbijn’s siblings express worry about their famous brother Anton, the workaholic. He isn’t married, has no children, travels extensively, and basically lives to work. This is a commonality I noticed from another photo-biography I watched recently. Daido Moriyama, the highly regarded Japanese street photographer, essentially abandoned his wife and children to live in Tokyo and pursue his singular passion of photography. Both men face dilemmas and consequences as a result of their total dedication to their art and careers. The 2001 documentary about Moriyama is well worth watching, and for me, so is Anton Corbijn Inside Out.

Official Trailer for Anton Corbijn Inside Out

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~ Keith

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