“All You Need Is Love”
Across the Universe:
Julie Taymor & The Beatles
By Jen Johans
And moving into the advent of the flower children, Taymor explores the counter-
culture and drug influenced psychedelics in two segments that do feel a bit long
when one watches the film as a whole but are artistically magical and impressive in
their own right. The sequence begins with Bono playing a cross between Ken Kesey
and Timothy Leary as Universe’s Dr. Robert in “I Am the Walrus,” wherein the gang
first experiments with “electric Kool Aid” (aka LSD).
Later, sticking with the homage, they board a painted bus with dialogue and imagery
alluding to Tom Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and the Beatles film
Magical Mystery Tour (IMDb).
Although John Lennon said that the inspiration for some of the verses for “Walrus”
came “after hearing the sound of a police siren in the distance while sitting at his
home in Weybridge,” (Harry, 318), the police are nowhere to be found amidst
Taymor’s version of The Merry Pranksters. For a comparison, here's a psychedelic
Beatles clip of the group performing "I Am the Walrus."
After the bus stops, they venture to meet Eddie Izzard’s Mr. Kite in a Yellow
Submarine influenced clip (following the photos) that makes the most of her Lion
King theatrical training.
And while IMDb reports that the film Yellow Submarine was the biggest influence for
“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” after reading how Lennon wrote the song, I couldn’
t help but think that Taymor may have been influenced by its carnivalesque origins.
In The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia, Lennon was quoted in 1980 as saying, “The
whole story is from a Victorian poster which I bought in a junk shop. It is so
cosmically beautiful. It’s a poster for a fair that must have happened in the 1880’s.
Everything in the song is from that poster except the horse wasn’t called Henry,”
Following up the freewheeling chaos of the two scenes that did wear on the nerves of
some viewers who were ready to tune out the same way they did when “the Beatles
got weird,” as a relative memorably complained, is one of the most beautiful segues
in the film.
Using “Because,” which John Lennon composed after hearing Yoko play Beethoven’s
“Moonlight Sonata” on the piano and having the idea to “reverse the chords and then
write 'Because”' around them (Harry, 83), Taymor cuts to a group of characters lying
in a field, shaped like a flower. Explore the image below with a sunflower for
Unfortunately, because the scene which cuts into a "love-in" under the sea (again
shot with amazing color and texture), involves nudity, it’s been flagged on YouTube
as possibly “adult in nature.” Thus, despite the film’s PG-13 rating, I can only
feature a photograph.
However, the delicate romance of the scene ends abruptly when Max’s head shoots
upwards out of the water—echoing Coppola’s Apocalypse Now—and the sound of
helicopters are heard, transporting him to Vietnam
Ken Kesey statue
in Eugene, Oregon.
|Text Only (c) Jen Johans. filmintuition.com
|Note: When originally posted in 2008, the embedded videos
we found online were all in working order. However, due to
Sony Pictures copyright violation, a majority of the clips have
now been removed from YouTube. We've chosen to leave all
of the original videos throughout the piece to give you a
reference point of where to follow along when you watch the
film on your own to best appreciate the essay.