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(Credit: New Line Cinema)

Film

Harmony Korine explains his intentions behind making 'Gummo'

@Russellisation

Unlike other filmmakers of contemporary Hollywood, Harmony Korine operates on its very fringes, embracing a style and form that seems to contradict everything we know about modern movies. This has been true ever since the director’s inception into the industry, with his debut feature film, Gummo, being one of Korine’s most complex and eccentric films to date. 

Considered as something of a misfire following the release of his groundbreaking screenwriting debut of Kids in 1995, Gummo is today considered a cult classic of modern cinema, changing the landscape of independent cinema in the 1990s. Scruffy, authentic and seeming to be the direct product of its environment, Gummo presents a brutally honest depiction of contemporary America that spoke to a disgruntled generation who could see themselves in such a world.

Triggering a revolution in the community of underground cinema, the film exposed the detachment that young people felt with the modern world, with Korine’s style going on to inspire the subversive rebelliousness of MTV and Jackass

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Despite the many films that came after Gummo, none of his films have been able to capture such a profound truth, with the 1997 debut remaining his most raw and expressive piece of filmmaking that shows off the director’s unabashed creativity. With a rambling, dreamlike story, the film follows two drifters of a lovely town in Ohio, occupied by deserted landscapes, bored individuals and wandering souls. Though plodding and aimless, it reveals some deep gashes of the modern American psyche. 

Discussing how he approached the creation of such an unfocused movie, Korine spoke with fellow filmmaker Werner Herzog in a revealing 1999 interview that shone light on several fascinating creative choices. 

Exclaiming his “boredom” with the presentation of modern cinema, Korine revealed, “When I look at the history of film – the early commercial narrative movies directed by D.W. Griffith, say – and then look at where films are now, I see so little progression in the way they are made and presented”. 

“Films can be so much more,” Korine added, before explaining his approach to Gummo, stating, “With Gummo I wanted to create a new viewing experience with images coming from all directions. To free myself up to do that, I had to create some kind of scenario that would allow me to just show scenes, which is all I care about”. 

Preferring the experimental exploration of an idea or concept, Korine disregards the laws of modern Hollywood cinema in pursuit of something far more profound. “I can’t stand plots,” he complains, explaining, “I don’t feel life has plots. There is no beginning, middle, or end, and it upsets me when things are tied up so perfectly,” with such a comment working to explain much of the director’s wild filmography.

As a result of this unique approach, Korine has created a timeless piece of cinema that continues to inspire audiences across the globe, illustrated in endless merchandising collaborations featuring iconography from the film, as well as several references in popular media. Maybe Harmony Korine has a point.

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