George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011) ★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2
This film is a must-see for all George Harrison and Beatles fans. I realised that it’s a better experience if you have previous knowledge of the band, as the film doesn’t really go over the main historical background. Running for over three hours, with content spanning four decades, it’s the skilful editing and soundtrack which keeps the audience entertained. Adding to the massive amount on material documenting and commenting on the band, this film displays Harrison’s legacy through not only music but his close personal relationships. Bottom line – he touched those he knew deeply.
Commentary on the creative process in general runs throughout the film, with grabs from Harrison and his musical counterparts illustrating their outlook on life and how it affects their work. For these artists, music was more than a profit-orientated commodity. It’s interesting how Harrison said that to appreciate the non-materialistic parts of life, he had to reach an excessive level in the material world to realise it. The very title of the film draws attention to Harrison’s constant divide between the spiritual world and that of the western world’s top celebrities.
Insight into the nature of his personal life is rewarding for the audience, who may not have heard from his brothers, son and wife before. We learn about his characteristics, including over-perfectionism, true love for friends and sacrifice. All material is highly praising of Harrison, with no mention of his womanising or the negative side to his drug use. However, it leaves the audience feeling very uplifted and inspired by the end of the session.
With a mix of still archival photos, interviews from past and present, from friends, family and colleagues, it is truly a great opportunity to delve into the past and create a profile of the ‘mysterious’ Beatle. A large part of the film is devoted to Harrison’s search for spirituality and his principles gained from eastern religion. It makes us question our own beliefs and forces us out of an idle, desensitised state. A pleasurable experience filled with excellent music and insightful commentary – it’s a music documentary which goes one step further.