‘The Beatles: Get Back’: How the great fall
Anna Falk | Monday, February 7, 2022
After not performing live since 1966, The Beatles are tasked with the impossible — they must write and rehearse 14 new songs in the span of three weeks. Whatever they create will be recorded as a studio album, played for a live audience and filmed for a TV special. The members have not written and recorded altogether in a while, and tensions are high as they try to work as a group in what would be their last year as a band.
Peter Jackson’s “The Beatles: Get Back” documentary is featured on Disney+ as a three episode series with a runtime of nearly eight hours. Jackson, with permission from the surviving band members and their families, spent nearly four years compiling this footage, trying to capture an accurate portrayal of the Fab Four’s musical process and dynamics as they prepare for their final live performance together.
As a longtime Beatles enthusiast, I was a bit nervous about starting this documentary. For anyone who has kept up with all things Beatles or classic rock, you probably know the animosity that characterizes the Beatles’ final years together. After the premature death of their manager Brian Epstein in 1967, the band struggled to find structure and financial success. Conflicts regarding creative decisions, partners and a need for control were some of the many things that ultimately led to John Lennon leaving the band in September of 1969.
While these issues are well-known, “Get Back” differs from past depictions of the group in that it shows their good moments. The audience still must bear Paul McCartney’s attempts to organize the band’s musical process, Lennon’s constant lateness and the departure of George Harrison, but there is much more life and love shared among the members than what is often shown.
In a news release, McCartney is quoted as saying, “I am really happy that Peter [Jackson] has delved into our archives to make a film that shows the truth about the Beatles recording together. The friendship and love between us comes over and reminds me of what a crazily beautiful time we had.”
For fans of the Beatles and their individual work following the breakup, this documentary will without a doubt be fascinating. Throughout this first episode, which details the first week of the Beatles’ musical preparations, there are numerous shots of the band formulating and presenting some of their most famous works in seemingly no time at all. Some of these works include “Let It Be,” “All Things Must Pass,” “Get Back,” “Golden Slumbers” and many more. Many iterations of their pieces are cycled through, the Fab Four make jokes and put them to music, they play covers together and they laugh about their charades.
Another interesting thing about this first episode is the detailing of the internal and external pressures to make decisions regarding their music, their approaching concert and their future as a group. In regards to their music, the documentary is depicted so that it’s hard to take sides during arguments, and you see them grappling with themselves and each other to keep a neat appearance. There is little to no consensus about what their concert should look like or where it should take place, and each member has a different idea about the end goal of their time together, complicating things in their music and in their interpersonal relationships.
It’s always hard to see something you love break apart (I have unfortunately cried over “The End” from “Abbey Road” more times than I’d like to admit), but “Get Back” beautifully frames the enduring friendship between the Beatles and details the context of their future split in a better light. While they did break up over various differences and squabbles regarding their creative visions and relationships, it was for the best and led to great things from each person. Their failure to come together resulted in good things, and Jackson’s work helps the audience to see just that.
Title: “The Beatles: Get Back”
Starring: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr
Director: Peter Jackson
If you like: The Beatles, classic rock
Where to watch: Disney+
Shamrocks: 4 out of 5