Shadow Play: The Making of Anton Corbijn


Anton Corbijn is a Dutch photographer, music video director (Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence, Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box) and more recently film director. He took his first photo on 28th August 1972 of Dutch musician Herman Brood and from small-town boy in Holland who had his pictures published in a music magazine he then went on to be a photographer for UK music magazine NME.

He has photographed virtually any cool musician you can think of: Beefheart, Tom Waits, Ian Curtis, Kurt Cobain, Henry Rollins, Nick Cave, Johnny Cash etc and even other pop-culture figures such as William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Wim Wenders.

The documentary consists of interviews with people such as Bono, Bob Geldof, Michael Stipe, Samantha Morton etc and uses footage from Corbijn’s directorial debut Control. Whilst Shadow Play is a good documentary, it feels a bit piece-meal and never really penetrates Corbijn’s genius. This may due to the large portions of the film that film the behind-the-scenes goings on of Control. Personally, I felt the Control segments would have been better as a bonus feature.

The documentary focuses on music and fame more so than photography and due to this there’s some great interviews with musicians and actors. There’s a lot of time dedicated to Joy Division, U2 and Depeche Mode all of whom Corbjin photographed and directed video clips for. Corbijn had a huge impact on how these bands presented themselves and this does deserve its place but might be a downside for those wanting to know more about his style and techniques, for example they never focus on the fact (or even why) he doesn’t use lighting and his very naturalistic approach to photography. His photography speaks for itself but it would have been neat to get more insight into his amazing talent.

Worth renting for those into the musicians Corbijn photographed and for all you photography fans this would be a great addition to your collection alongside Arthouse Films’ excellent Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens.


The only extras are a theatrical trailer for the film and some Madman trailers.

Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.

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