A century before extravagant, self-destructive, drug-abusing rock stars roamed the earth, poets were also doing their bit to create a new utopia and restructure their brain cells. Pandaemonium goes a long way toward capturing the compelling delirium of opium among a crowd of freethinking British iconoclasts. More specifically, the film, with its swoony visual and narrative style, illuminates the intensity of the friendship between William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, played by graceful, sharp-edged BBC types John Hannah and Linus Roache, respectively. (The women in their lives, Wordsworth’s bohemian sister and Coleridge’s homespun wife, are played by Emily Woof and Samantha Morton.) The madness of the relationship: Coleridge, the addict on the way to ruin, was clearly the more creative — and Wordsworth hated him for it.
The miseries of misbehaving poets in Pandaemonium follows filmmaker Julien Temple’s two charged documentaries about the Sex Pistols, The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle (1980) and The Filth and the Fury (2000). Rebelliousness, obviously, is his discipline.