Beat (2000 film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Beat is a 2000 American drama film written and directed by Gary Walkow, concerning the period of writer William S. Burroughs's life that he spent with his wife, Joan Vollmer, leading up to her accidental killing in 1951.

The film stars Kiefer Sutherland as Burroughs, Courtney Love as Joan, Norman Reedus as Lucien Carr, and Ron Livingston as Allen Ginsberg. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2000 and was entered into the 22nd Moscow International Film Festival.


The film opens with Vollmer balancing a water tumbler on her head as Burroughs, her husband, aims a gun at her as she entices him to shoot her. The film then cuts to Joan and Burroughs in the months prior in Mexico City, as Burroughs is leaving on a trip to Guatemala to meet his male lover, Lee. Joan, despondent from William's affair and his disinterest in her, is left to take care of their two children while he goes on his vacation.

Various flashbacks from that point on tell the story of the 1944 murder of their mutual friend David Kammerer in New York City, while Joan was a student at Columbia University. David was killed by Lucien Carr (Norman Reedus) after he made unwanted sexual advances to him. Lucien arrives at William and Joan's apartment and confesses to the murder.

The story cuts back to Mexico City in 1951, and Joan goes on a vacation in the country with Lucien and his friend, Ginsberg, while William is in Guatemala with Lee. On their trip, Lucien, who has recently been released from prison for the murder of Dave, attempts to romance Joan but she dismisses his advances. Meanwhile, William unsuccessfully tries to pursue Lee while the two are in Guatemala.

William returns home to Joan, frustrated by Lee's dwindling lack of sexual and romantic interest towards him, and falls into a depression. Joan asks him to return to New York City with her, but he refuses due to his pending charge for heroin possession in the United States.

At the end of the film, William accidentally shoots Joan in the head while at their friends' apartment after the two had been drinking. The film ends with Lucien receiving the news of her death in a telegram.


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