Most people know Anton Corbijn as a music video director and more recently for his films such as Control and The American. But as Inside Out reveals, it’s really photography that’s at his heart and which he’s perhaps most renowned for in artistic and music circles.
This documentary follows Corbijn, trying to get inside his head and find out who he is. The results are interesting if sometimes a little frustrating. Inside Out tends to assume you know about Corbijn’s work and how from the 80s until now, his photographs (particularly of music figures) and videos have made him a renowned figure. If you don’t, the early parts of the film in particular are a bit oblique, supposing an understanding of his work that not all viewers will have. It’s more about looking at the man behind the work than revealing what the work is by looking at the man.
It’s certainly not the jolliest depiction of Corbijn, who often comes across as rather lonely, a little sad and uncertain of a purpose beyond work. Indeed his family talk about the idea of him being forced to stop working in fairly alarmed terms, as if they’re not sure if he’d be able to cope with it. He rarely seems to laugh and isn’t comfortable in social situations. Although it’s occasionally difficult to know if he’s really quite as reserved and isolated a figure as the film presents him, or if it’s more the way the documentary wants to present him, it’s still an interesting portrait. As director Quirijns is a friend of Anton, and he has supported the movie, there is undoubtedly a large measure of truth in it.
However it never feels like we’re truly getting to the heart of this son of a preacher, or his work. Even those who’ve worked with him for years, such as U2’s Bono, can’t reveal much about him, even while they’re profuse in their admiration for his work. The documentary dips into his childhood, family, goes to shoots with him and watches him shooting the George Clooney film The American, but it never quite manages to fully uncover what makes him tick. That’s partly because even Corbijn seems unsure why he is the way he is, with the end result being an image of a loner who’s endlessly compelled to work.
Unfortunately, due to the fact it doesn’t really help those who’ve heard of Anton but don’t really know his work, it’s only of real interest to fans of his videos and photos (the movie ends with a selection of some of his best images – which are incredible – but it would have helped if we’d had those earlier on). If you are a fan, you’ll undoubtedly find a lot of interest here, but if you less aware of Corbijn’s work, it’s probably worthwhile doing a bit of research before watching this intriguing but sometimes indirect film.
Overall Verdict: Corbijn is undoubtedly an incredible photographer and director, but Inside Out reveals him to be a rather solitary figure, although you’ll need to know his work beforehand to really appreciate this intimate documentary.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac