Full Metal Jacket Diary (Rugged Land)
by Matthew Modine
Reviewed by Tina Maas
Rating: 7 / 10While on set filming Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece Full Metal Jacket, Matthew Modine documented his experience with his camera. The resulting black and white images and journal notes now offer a look into life on the set in the book Full Metal Jacket Diary.
Full Metal Jacket Diary by Matthew Modine lives up to its name by being literally clad in an impressively embossed metal book jacket, which will make it stand out on every book shelf. Aside from this beautiful craftsmanship and finishing, the inside offers Modines personal glimpse on the making of the namesake film Full Metal Jacket in 1986 by the late Stanley Kubrick. The book takes us through the making of the film from Modines point of view; his recollections are a bizarre and fascinating amalgam of curious memories from the early stages of meeting Stanley Kubrick through inevitable struggles, pitfalls and crises up to the successful completion of filming.
The text is laid out like a mixture of a diary and a screenplay. Written very humorously and unpresumptuous it feels down to earth and offers an intimate view on Modines memories and little anecdotes he meticulously dates and assigns a location to under the heading of observational diary. Full Metal Jacket is a wonderful showcase of a book as art object, a perfect union of book design, materials, layout and typeface and seamlessly combines documentary photographs with interviews and diary style writings.
Structurally the book is divided into several chapters encompassing the early preparatory stages in private life, the actual shooting filmed in England in the chapters entitled Vietnam and Boot Camp, aspects of Modines personal life in On Leave and the sections Boot Camp Redux and an afterword. Above all Modine gives a full and intimate account of his evolving personal relationship with movie legend Stanley Kubrick, recounting moments with the filmmaker through anecdotes and quotes and revealing small gestures and incidents which shed light on Kubricks unique and outstanding character.
Reading the diary entries transports the reader into the set of a discarded factory in Beckton outside London in the mid 80s and strongly evokes not only the atmosphere of the film, set during the Vietnam War, but recounts the conflicting emotions the actors were feeling as well.
We bear witness as Modine struggles to identify and immerse himself in his role as Sergeant Joker as best as he can, while dealing with his personal life of moving to England and his wife expecting their first baby. What makes the reading so compelling is Modines honesty to relate all his emotions raw and uncensored, sometimes crude sometimes poetic but always sincere and direct. Raised in Utah by Mormon parents, the youngest of seven, Modines background is substantially different to the environment he finds himself in while filming and living in London.
A refreshing aspect to the book are the many side stories that he imparts about the various people in his life at the time including friends and other actors, reminiscences of total strangers on the street, as well as intimate accounts of his sons birth and early life. Accompanying the diary is a set of remarkably expressive, mainly black and white photographs, taken by Modine during the filming and occasionally featuring him on the set, which aptly completes the picture the diary sketches out in words.
The images capture great moments from behind the scenes of his double life comprising both his working life as actor and his private life as a first time father. The book presents a gripping mixture of shots of Kubrick at work, Modines wife with his newborn son and actors relaxing during breaks on sets. Modine did a great job documenting it all, catching people unawares as well as creating timeless portraits and capturing funny moments, which makes this book a fascinating read not only for Kubrick fans.