Anyone who considers themselves part of the Kurt Vonnegut karass will love this new, tenderly crafted documentary, Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time. It’s the culmination of an epic 39-year journey taken by filmmaker Robert Weide, over the course of which he and Kurt clearly developed a loving friendship.
I consider myself something of a Vonnegut nut, having trawled Kurt’s biographies, autobiographical notes, and semi-fictional-autobiographical-narrative-elements in order to create Kurt Vonnegut Tweets. But I have nothing on Weide. And take it from me, the footage in this film – most of which I’ve never seen before – is absolutely fantastic. There are crystal clear home videos of Vonnegut as a young boy with curly blond hair, goofing around with his brother Bernard and sister Alice. There’s Kurt in his twilight years, revisiting houses and schools from his childhood, explaining how they influenced his writing. There are interviews with his children, where they talk very frankly not only about the goods but also the bads of their father.
Slaughterhouse-Five – often considered Kurt’s finest work – serves as the film’s gravitational centre. The camera itself is unstuck in time, darting from Kurt in his 80s to Kurt in his 20s, from Robert’s first contact with Kurt to him directing Kurt to cry ‘Tralfamadore!’ once more on the shore of Lake Maxinkuckee. It all comes together as something that isn’t just highly informative but also deeply moving. And although at the start I was a little wary of how it featured Robert, the filmmaker, as well as Vonnegut, by the end I was convinced it was all done in a manner Kurt would’ve thoroughly approved of. Indeed, near the end you can litereally hear old Kurt over the phone in his raspy Pall-Malls-inflicted voice, saying how much he liked some earlier edit of this film.
If you don’t believe me and Kurt, check out the LA Times review and this Guardian article. Or just watch the film.