The Killing Of John Lennon
- Paul Dale
- 29 November 2007
By his own admission Mark David Chapman was nobody until he killed the biggest somebody on earth. That somebody was ex-Beatle John Lennon who he shot on 8 December 1980 outside the Dakota Buildings in New York.
Despite being completed over 18 months ago writer/director Andrew Piddington’s compelling take on this iconic event, told from Chapman’s perspective, is still the first of two new fictionalisations centred on Lennon’s murder (the other being Sundance hit Chapter 27 starring Jared Leto and Lindsay Lohan). Honed by his work on many TV documentaries and drama Piddington’s methods are grippingly clinical. This is a study of mania and celebrity obsession in an age when the phenomenon was still in its infancy. We follow Chapman (played with disturbed reserve by newcomer Jonas Ball) from his young marriage in Honolulu to the wintry boulevards and parks of Manhattan, as an obsession with Holden Caulfield (protagonist of JD Salinger’s book The Catcher in The Rye) and a wish for celebrity endorsement take a hold of him.
Like Chapman, Piddington clearly believes that it is only by ‘Watching the Wheels’ (the Lennon song Chapman initially used as justification for the murder) that any kind of lasting portrait can be made of this man crucified by Presbyterian guilt, bullying and the black dog of depression.
This is a grim, lean and inquisitive piece of filmmaking which leads the viewer up unexpected avenues of enquiry (why did Chapman abandon his obsession with Lennon in October after watching Robert Redford’s Ordinary People and return to Honolulu only to go back to New York in December for the final kill? Why was he sentenced to a prison term of 20 years to life despite being diagnosed as delusional and possibly psychotic?), and as such deserves to find an audience when it is released on the 27th anniversary of Lennon’s death.