Film Review: ‘Anton Corbijn: Inside Out’


With a career spanning almost four decades, encompassing photography, visual installations and film, Anton Corbijn is one of the most highly regarded artists of his generation. Having worked with such high profile bands as Arcade Fire, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, Nirvana and U2, as well as directing three acclaimed features, Klaartje Quirijn’s documentary Anton Corbijn: Inside Out (2012) is certainly not short of big-name cameos. Thankfully, the film avoids idol worship in favour of a fascinating snapshot of this tireless Dutch pioneer.

Rather than being just another directionless fly-on-the-wall doc, Quirijns’ Inside Out has been carefully structured in order to explore both Corbijn’s professional and more personal liaisons, gradually uncovering his artistic motivations as well as his constant struggle to find time for himself within his prolific schedule. Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler, irksome self-publicist Bono, star of The American (Corbijn’s second feature, released in 2010) George Clooney and Corbijn’s immediate family all provide testimonials on the Dutch workaholic, who admits to spending most of his time on the road with a camera – “a strange way to live”, in his own words.

Shot with verve and panache – in a style that Corbijn himself would surely approve – Quirijn’s documentary is a genuine eye-opener, delving deep into the life of a reserved individual who has spent the majority of his life on the opposite side of the viewfinder. Despite giving good chat, Corbijn clearly has demons of his own, most relating back to the distance that he often feels between himself and his subjects. On several occasions, the Dutch artist muses on how much you can truly know an individual just by taking their picture – the age-old dichotomy of living life vs. capturing life once again coming to the fore.

Tellingly, of those interviewed, it’s Corbijn’s own family who provide the most engrossing insights into the life of Inside Out’s titular star. His sister, concerned with being portrayed as ‘weak’ on film, expresses clear concern for her older brother’s health due to his frenetic lifestyle. At 57, Corbijn is certainly no spring chicken and, having only recently started his career as a feature filmmaker, at times appears swamped and distinctly put-upon. Yet, to his credit (and to that of Quirijns also), he never fails to be anything other than erudite, thoughtful and utterly compelling when on-screen. Even those new to Corbijn’s work may well find themselves willingly ensnared within his intricate web of hotel rooms and photo-shoots.

As a director, Corbijn has divided – and will continue to divide – both audiences and critics due to his supreme focus on style and aesthetics. At times, his work may lack that necessary emotional connection, but with Inside Out, Quirijn gives this unique craftsman the platform to truly express his innermost workings. What could have been a self-serving ‘slap on the back’ for an already hugely successful visual auteur turns out to be a surprisingly moving, delicately layered portrait of an artist as a middle-aged man.

Daniel Green