Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The Killing of John Lennon
I don't know what drew me in to see this movie, but I had to see the independent film The Killing of John Lennon. I had neve heard of it before, but the topic interested me since I didn't know too much about John Lennon's murder. I only knew the basics: John Lennon was killed outside of his apartment in New York City while walking into his building with his wife, Yoko Ono, and was shot in the back by a fan who then sat down and read The Catcher in the Rye.
The creepiness and eeriness of the situation made me want to see the killer's motivations and especially his connection with the popular JD Salinger novel. The Killing of John Lennon did a great job of having the audience understand his motivations. At times it was a bit slow as the viewer was sitting on the edge of his/her seat wondering when it was going to happen. He had mentioned killing Lennon to those around him, so why hadn't anyone spoken up earlier? And, he ran into all of those people outside of his building who he showed an unreal fascination with him. Why didn't they report it and/or keep a closer eye on this guy for Lennon's sake?
From watching the film, I gained a deeper persepctive on his motives. For instance, Lennon's killer, Mark Chapman, was a fan of the Beatles when he was young. He did enjoy Lennon as a musician. However, he was deeply troubled when Lennon made his infamous remark, "We are more popular than Jesus." He thought it was blasphemy, and this started his hatred. Then he stumbled across The Catcher in the Rye, and his life changed. He realized that he was Holden Calufield, and that everything in the book was speaking to him. It answered all of his life's questions. But now he had to preach the book's central message and almost act as a hero like Caulfield himself.
Caulfield argued against phoniness, something that he thought Lennon had more than any other human being he knew. He sang about having no possessions and imagining love and peace in his song "Imagine" while he had millions of dollars and multiple homes. In his new album with Yoko Ono, he stressed his disinterest and shunning of the Beatles and Jesus. Chapman found Lennon to be a phony, so he wanted to end it for everyone so they could all see how much of a phony he is.
So, Chapman packed up his things where he lived in Hawaii and stayed at multiple hotels in New York City as he waited and stalked Lennon. He stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria and the Sheraton, trying to stay at hotels similar to those of Caulfield. He even had a prostitute come to the room, like Caulfield, and he mimicked the same scene from the book where he gives her the night off just to be in the company of a woman. The next day, Chapman met up with Lennon in front of his apartment where he had Lennon sign an autograph. Chapman waited for him to return to his hotel where he then called out his name and then shot him in the back four times.
For whatever reason, I've been watching many films where people cowardously shoot people in the back. I've watched The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Public Enemies, and now The Killing of John Lennon, which are all based on actual accounts. Great, popular, famous men are taken down by weaker men who shoot them in the back when they don't even know it's coming. They are hunted and stalked and then are assassinated against their knowledge. I think it's just sick, but it's also really strange that I've seen all these movies with similar themes in just a matter of weeks.
However, Chapman almost didn't commit the murder. He went to New York City once, announcing to a cab driver that something big was going to happen and he would see him soon in the news. But before he could find Lennon, he saw Ordinary People and was inspired not to murder and to return home to his wife. Weeks later, Chapman was back on the plane and stalking Lennon at this apartment at the Dakota.
Once he was imprisoned, Chapman later said that if he hadn't gotten ahold of Lennon, he was then going to go after Johnny Carson or another famous person who I really can't remember at the moment. He then discussed his motivations and connection with the novel. He even read aloud the passage from The Catcher in the Rye where Caulfield says that all he wants to do it catch little children as they try to jump off of a cliff. That's all Chapman wants to do too. He then sent out a statement saying that if people want to understand why he did what he did, they should read The Catcher in the Rye. I'm not sure how many actually did this, especially with the brewing hate they must have harbored for him.
What really gets me about this is the memorialization of Mark Chapman. By making this film and focusing on him, they are bringing him fame and attention, which is what he wants. This seems to be more glorifying what he did more than it is glorifying Lennon himself. I know it is trying to help us understand why it happened, but the artistic way that the film portrayed Chapman made me feel like they were on his side. They understood why he did it, and that was acceptable. That feeling is not one that I like.
And what really got me was that SO MANY other texts have come out about this murder, which glorfies and memorializes the account even farther! Before this film, another film came out starring Jared Leto as Chapman called 27 Chapters. Other interviews, books, and articles have come out on the account. This is exactly what Chapman wants. He will now be forever remembered for his heinous act.
What kills me too is that this type of glorification tells other sociopaths that, if they want to be remembered forever and known as a murdering legend, they can murder and then they will live on forever. Movies will be made, books will be written, articles will come out--they will be the hot new thing in the media, even if it is in a negative light. It is still attention even though it's negative. We are just feeding into this cycle, so if these murders keep happening, I wouldn't be surprised. We're reacting in a way that encourages their behavior, and that disgusts me.
Glad I got that off my chest. I wonder if anyone else agrees with me on that point, because I asked a friend of mine, and she said, "Well, then why did you watch it? They made that movie for people like you who were interested in it. You can't complain then." And I see her point too, but after the fact, I realized what I was getting myslef into and what the greater point really is. Man, what a tragedy.
It's weird to think that it's been over twenty years since the murder in December of 1980. I wasn't even born yet when it happened. Chapman was sentenced to twenty years to life and has since been denied parole four times. I'm not surprised. I wouldn't be surprised if he died in prison. He's a nut. Why would they let him out?
The movie seemed to do a good job with keeping all of the facts in line. Wikipedia only mentions two minor details that didn't mesh up with reality, but they're too miniscule to even note here. The actor did a good job of playing a mental case, and they did a decent job with making him look simialr to Chapman, but he was much better looking than Chapman. They did him a favor with that actor, and with Jared Leto for that matter. It was really artistic, which was enjoyable to watch, and it seemed that the writer and director did a lot of research so it was quite accurate. Overall, if this incident interests you, it's worth the watch.
That's my two cents. So what do you think of The Killing of John Lennon?