The Devil and Daniel Johnston

I don’t often watch documentaries, but tonight I viewed The Devil and Daniel Johnston. I highly recommend it.

This film accomplished two things quite well: it informed me, and made me feel a pang of regret for not having heard of this man sooner. It was fascinating to see the development of Johnston both musically and mentally, and sad to see him degenerate in the midst of such amazing and voluminous creative output. And while his performing was often difficult to bear, it was hard for me to miss the clear influence Johnston had on rock, alternative, and independent music.

This film was filmed beautifully, both clearly and editorially so as to evoke a real sense of melancholy at Daniel’s situation. There were a number of fantastic slow panning shots, beautiful color, and quality editing. The footage from Johnston’s early Super 8 films are equally excellent, and surprisingly well done for a teenager (at the time). The use of his music throughout not only familiarizes the viewer with the work, but adds to the mood.

Five out of five.