During a career spanning more than five decades, legendary director John Boorman has always defied categorization. Eclectic and prolific, the five-time Oscar nominated filmmaker follows his own muse and transports audiences into territories that express deeply personal viewpoints, yet encompass the vast, collective depth of the human experience. An artist of the first order, Boorman’s films (including Excalibur, The Emerald Forest, and Beyond Rangoon) embody an ancient story-telling tradition while creating contemporary mythologies with images and light. Landscapes are endlessly interesting, rife with mystical secrets. Characters wield god-like powers, only to be undone by some tragic flaw.
Born in Middlesex, London in 1933, Boorman was sent into the country to escape the Blitz, where, (so superbly rendered in Hope and Glory; Best Director Oscar nomination—1997), his personality and artistic inclinations began to form and emerge amidst the rural atmosphere and a circle of new playmates.
His cinematic canvases teem with characters and landscapes that are endlessly interesting, sometimes exotic, and often fraught with danger. Lurking behind peaceful, idyllic façades is an ever-present simmering violence, poised to pounce and destroy without warning or provocation. But unlike other filmmakers who use violence gratuitously as a means to shock and/or titillate, Boorman deftly weaves it into the very fabric of the story, with firm purpose. In his world of opposites, restoration is quite often achieved through annihilation, such as the unexpected terrors of Deliverance or the non-stop explosiveness of Point Blank. Yet, Boorman can shift gears and deliver sidesplitting comedy such as Zardoz (with Sean Connery sporting hilarious leather attire) and Where the Heart Is.
Severely smitten with cinema at an early age, Boorman constantly haunted London’s newly opened National Film Theatre when he was eighteen, entranced by the silent films of such greats as D.W. Griffith, Abel Gance, Eric von Stroheim, and Buster Keaton. It was there he realized (as cited in his 2003 autobiography, Adventures of a Suburban Boy) that “it was possible to achieve, through film, a radiance, a transcendence.” Luck—or perhaps fate—took over after Boorman’s stint in the army. He landed an editor trainee position and then, despite being immensely happy with editing, found himself working in television and making documentaries. Soon thereafter, in 1965, Boorman was making feature films. Fortunately for film lovers, he hasn’t missed a beat since. – P.D. Crane