Director: Griffin Dunne
Joan Didion: The Center will not hold is a documentary about American pioneer of New Journalism in the 1960s and the best 20th century writer, Joan Didion. The film is available on Netflix and has been directed by her nephew who funded the film through Kickstarter.
The documentary is a personal story of her work and private life. Therefore, we learn how each book happened and what inspired it. We also learn how it was to work in the Vogue and how her famous article on fashion and self-respect happened (see here). In addition, we learn how it was to start writing a novel and about the life in New York throughout the time. The documentary basically captured cultural and social changes that happened in the US during her life, which is also what her books have captured so far.
Her personal story is an interesting one too and she boldly discloses her life. She explained how her husband had a bad temper and anything could set him off however, she also went on to explain what common interests they had that kept them together all their life until his death. She tells us a story of adopting a child that was abandoned, and she also tells us how when her husband and her daughter died in a space of two years only, she was left with writing.
Throughout the film she says she was born to write and then she says that after everybody died she was left with the thing she was born to do and that’s it. She also sadly says there is nobody to leave behind once she dies, which is incorrect because she is leaving her books for new generations to read and learn from them. It is not everybody’s call to leave children behind them and being born to write is a remarkable thing especially when books are capturing and criticising racism and social fragmentation over a longer period of time. Her books are a remarkable account of the time she lived in and her life, and this documentary also testifies of that.
It is an interesting film and Joan appears and talks a lot, which helps us capture her feelings about her life. Sometimes it is things she says that capture the attention, but sometimes it is also the way she shakes her shoulders and nods her head that speaks volumes. However, I also think that film failed to capture the work from her books and we do not get to know what she thinks of 2017. Based on the work she produced so far, it does seem like she still thinks the “center will not hold”, but the film is making us believe that everything will be fine. Will the world be fine, and is this what she really thinks? This was left unclear.
Thank you for reading.