Focusing on the so-called 'fifth Beatle' Stuart Sutcliffe, this film tells of the The Beatles' adventures during the summer of 1960, when they moved to Hamburg and played gigs in red light district clubs. Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff), an artist as well as musician, begins to drift apart from his famous friends after meeting and falling in love with Astrid Kirchnerr (Sheryl Lee), an avant-garde photographer. As the band takes off he has to choose between his art, his love, and his friends. The Beatles' musical performances were recreated for the film by an alternative rock supergroup, including members of R.E.M and Nirvana.
Ian Hart's second performance as John Lennon (the first was the little-seen The Hours and Times
) commands attention in this marvellous musical bio of the Beatles in Hamburg directly before their stardom. The focus is on the "5th Beatle" Stuart Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff), a bluesy bass guitar player who finds Germany has more interesting things (art and a woman) than music. The woman, Astrid (Sheryl Lee), chronicles the early years of the Beatles and shefalls in love with Stuart, a move that would influence many aspects of the Fab Four. Nearly overpowering the film is Hart in a great, energized performance of an artist on fire. The music was adapted for the movie, rediscovering the raw sound and ballistic energy in the back street clubs. These scenes of rock and genius intermixed with a nervy lead singer evoke similarities to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. Backbeat
is directed by Iain Softley. --Doug Thomas