The Discipline of DE

Posted on March 16, 2011


The Discipline of DE, directed by Gus Van Sant, is based on a short story by William Burroughs. This slightly off-kilter film is told in the format of an instructional video. It immediately struck my interest because I’m interested in the writings of Burroughs. The film, while overtly about simplifying your life by repeating things until you find the simplest way to do them (DE standing for Do Easy), is in many ways an allegory for the filmmaking process. Keeping it simple and working hard to get it right, no matter how many times you have to repeat yourself, is exactly the right way to effectively make a film. One needs to stay disciplined in order to get things done, and in reality, most tasks are simple until they start piling up. The piece has an ironic feel and the language and tone that the narrator uses adds to this. The film as a whole was very entertaining.
Staying true to Burroughs’s narrative, Van Sant gives the whole film a sort of “cool” feeling, by filming in black and white, with the Wild West bit at the end, it feels like it took place in the 1960s. Since The Discipline of DE  was made in 1978, Van Sant has directed some pretty famous films like Good Will Hunting and Milk, and he seemed to take his own advice and stick to the philosophy of Do Easy.

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