I AM HEATH LEDGER: An Intimate Look At the Actor Through His Own Eyes
I Am Heath Ledger is a deeply intimate look at the late actor, but fails to ask important questions about the man behind the mask.
Through his own home videos and self imagery, Heath Ledger invites us into a world of his own making. Adrian Buitenhuis and Derik Murray bring us the documentary film, I Am Heath Ledger – where the man on screen is also telling the story from behind the scenes. Directing the scenes of his life and plotting his next move, Ledger was a character all too eager for the spotlight’s attention and joyed in bringing others up with him.
Like many in my generation, I first saw Ledger as the strikingly sexy and edgy Australian, Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You. It was the real start of his film career in America. From there he went on to have a blossoming and promising career. He proved to the industry and audiences alike that he was more than a pretty face to grace the screen and could actually act. Adored by friends, family and fans alike, the world was devastated at the news of his untimely and accidental death at the age of 28, less than a decade after his break out role as Verona.
A Voyeuristic Look At Himself
Even at times when Ledger may appear overzealous and narcissistic, he has an innocent charm and charisma which allows him to get away with it. Only a narcissist could film so much of themselves, with the focus on themselves so much of the time. For the voyeuristic Ledger fans, this film may be a dream come true, with lots of glimpses into his personal adventures as he dances and climbs his way through life. Not only do we see bits of Ledger’s world from his perspective but we see him through his own eyes too as we watch him evolve in his artistry.
Part of his artistic compulsion was to constantly be filming and photographing not only himself, but the world around him and his friends too. In between gratuitous shots of Ledger on Ledger, there are interviews with friends who share their memories of the legend including director Ang Lee, musician Ben Harper and ex-girlfriend Naomi Watts. His parents and sisters are also interviewed. Heath Ledger was a carefree spirit who didn’t care much for the Hollywood Handbook and decided to play by his own rules. If he was going to “make it”, it was to be on his terms. Instead of playing roles, he wanted to splatter the screen with different versions of himself.
As far as narcissists go, he doesn’t appear to have been the malignant type. I Am Heath Ledger shows a passionate and compassionate young man who opened up his LA home as a rotating pad for his mates and their mates. He treated his life like a party and all were invited. He was an adrenaline junkie, willing to take risks and always looking for the next adventure – whether that adventure was a person, place or thing, didn’t matter as long as it was new and exciting.
Ledger saw himself as much more than an actor. He was a visionary and fancied himself as a multimedia artist. Going behind the scenes of the N’fa Jones music video Cause An Effect, which was directed by Ledger, is an entrancing experience in the uniqueness of this man’s mind. Jones appears in the film, speaking highly of his late friend and fellow artist.
His Dark Night
It feels like the film paints half the portrait of a man, while attempting to hide something more sinister that lurked inside him. If he struggled with addiction or dealt with an extreme emotional overload due to a bad break up, these are things that could have been touched upon without going too deep. But it’s those very things that humanize him and make him relatable to the rest of the world, many of whom experience similar things.
Highs and lows are part of life. It’s understandable that the filmmakers wouldn’t want to shine a light on his troubles and the darkness in his life, but rather to keep it focused on who he was to himself and those closest to him, however it leaves out a whole half of the story. Ledger’s agent Steve Alexander makes the comment that he “struggled with some demons” – and that’s it. That’s the only mention of any troubles, leaving a giant elephant in the room about how this bright shining star imploded into darkness, with the snap of a finger.
On The Technical Side
The pace of the film is slow going and at times feels like we’re just being voyeurs – like looking up at the night sky and watching a fallen star’s light shine on long after it’s gone. I Am Heath Ledger cuts between low quality home video footage to high quality professional shots to tell this story.
The framing of the interviewees sometimes feel like they’re too far away from the camera and also too far in front of the backdrop they were filmed in front of. There’s a hint of melancholy hue that saturates the interviewees as they reminisce the departed Ledger, which is to be expected as his young life ended tragically.
I Am Heath Ledger is shrouded with the tone of a eulogy from the start but serves as a tribute to Ledger’s short life and many accomplishments compiled by his loved ones, for his fans. This film shows us glimpses of not only who Ledger was to his friends and family but who he was to himself, through his own eyes. Behind the scenes and off the screen, he appears to have always been a legend in his own mind.
What is your favorite Heath Ledger film?
I Am Heath Ledger arrived on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital HD May 23rd. For more information on the release dates in your country see here.
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