Peter Doherty: Stranger in My Own Skin15
If ever there was a tortured, talented soul it would be Pete Doherty. Since the limelight clung tight to him and his fellow band mates The Libertines since their inception in 1997, it's been trained on him ever since.
This documentary follows the singer from those early days, up until now.
But it’s worth bearing in mind that it is a documentary lacking any kind of objectivity, shot as it is by his Peter Doherty and The Puta Madres band member, and now wife, Katia De Vidas.
To that end, as you would expect, it’s very sympathetic towards the charismatic singer. It certainly doesn’t shy away from his well documented drug habit, that it could be argued has overshadowed his musical talent. But you get more a sense of Doherty as a suffering victim in that scenario, who was completely possessed by his addiction. There is one telling scene where the singer even admits “someone might come and save me”, which could be construed as a cry for help, but at the same time could be meant that he’s not prepared to do anything about it himself. And certainly the amount of times he put off attending rehab lends itself to the latter theory.
It’s a curious documentary; on one hand it’s clearly subjective, being its filmed by someone who loves her subject – quite literally – but at the same time, the filmmaker keeps interaction with Doherty to a bare minimum throughout. So it’s neither a reliable objective take, nor is it a personal insight into their relationship. The result is therefore a curious no man’s land of a film, that all embraces his addiction, and reveals very little else.
There is also little sign of the dark side of the singer, of which they’re a various examples of, that don’t feature here. Such as allegedly squirting blood – presumably his own – at an MTV Germany film crew in 2006. Or getting a three-month suspended sentence for “violence while intoxicated” in 2019.
Or the mysterious deaths that have followed him around, such as Robin Whitehead, who was to make a film about Doherty, but ended up dying from a suspected overdose in the Hackney flat she had been filming the star in, in 2010. Or the well documented death of Mark Blanco, covered by both Newsnight and a recent Channel 4 documentary, about Mark Blanco, who attended a party at Doherty’s friend’s flat in Whitechapel, who fell to his death from the flat’s balcony, with CCTV footage of Doherty fleeing soon after, and although never proven legally, new evidence was leaning to him being pushed by someone at the party.
Contributions from others are also thin on the ground; you would have at least expected a sit down with his fellow Libertine Carl Barat, who you would imagine knows him all too well, but nothing.
So although this film doesn’t exactly show him as being squeaky clean, it is by no means a definitive documentary. It could also be argued that it’s also on the deceptive side, as at no time is it made clear that there is a relationship between filmmaker and subject, merely hinted at.
Perhaps what it does showcase is his unquestionable talent as a musician and wordsmith, who still managed to produce an impressive body of work despite his addiction, or maybe, sadly, due to it.
So despite some revealing scenes, it’s a documentary that sadly doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know about the singer, with the main take away being that he’s a creative force controlled by his addictions.
Feeling like a filmed diary more than anything else, it’s likely to satisfy only die-hard fans, but considering the film-makers relationship to her subject, it does come across as a missed opportunity. What a waste-r.
Doherty may well feel a stranger in his own skin, if the film’s title is to be believed, but the feeling is sadly mutual after watching it.