Delice Bette | October 6, 2022
Stanley Kubrick (born July 26, 1928 in New York, died March 7, 1999 in Harpenden) is an American director, screenwriter, film editor and producer.
His films, which are largely film adaptations, cover a wide range of genres and are distinguished by realism, black humor, distinctive camera work, elaborate sets and the use of classical music.
He came from a family of Ashkenazi Jews who hailed from Central Europe; his grandfather, Elijah Kubrik, was born on November 25, 1877 in the Galician town of Probuzhna (now Ukraine) and emigrated overseas 25 years later. The director”s father, Jakob Leonard Kubrik, also known by the names Jack and Jacques, was born in New York on May 21, 1902; Elijah and Rose Kubrik also had two daughters, Hester Merel (born June 12, 1904) and Lilly (the director”s father is already listed as Kubrick on his 1927 medical school diploma, as is his marriage certificate. He entered into it in 1927 with Gertrude Peveler, the daughter of Austrian emigrants. Their first child, Stanley Kubrick was born on July 26, 1928 at Manhattan”s Lying-In Hospital clinical maternity hospital; less than six years later his sister, Barbara Mary, was born.
His father was a doctor whose passions were chess and photography. The future director started school in 1934; he was not a good student at school, skipping a lot of lessons, which at one point even raised suspicions of mental retardation; however, the relevant tests showed very high intelligence, while Stanley himself said that nothing at school could interest him, as lessons were conducted in a dull and mechanical way. From the age of eight, he was additionally taught by a private teacher. Jack allowed his son to use his professional photographic equipment, and also taught him to play chess. Young Stanley quickly became fascinated with the world of still images. In addition to photography, he also took up developing and processing photos. He played drums in the school jazz band.
Kubrick continued his education at William Howard Taft High School. More often, however, than in the school classroom (of all classes, he was most often in English classes, taught by Aaron Traister; he later recounted with admiration how Traister, instead of – like other teachers – dully reciting banalities about the readings he was reviewing, theatrically, acting out passages of them in front of the class, impersonating various characters, and how he encouraged the class to discuss them) could be found in Washington Square Park, where he watched the fierce chess players playing and played himself on many occasions, including for money, and at the local movie theater, where he watched virtually every picture that hit the screen. As he later recounted, the vast majority of these films were bad or very bad, but at some point, watching these poor films, he came to the conclusion that he could make better ones himself. At that time he was also interested in jazz; he played drums in the school swing combo – as his peers recalled, he did very well. At the age of 17, he took a job as a photographer for Look magazine (he began by taking a photo of a grieving newsboy surrounded by headlines announcing the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt – the photo appeared on the front page of Look magazine on June 26, 1945; in April 1946, he did a photo shoot of Traister acting out excerpts from Hamlet in front of the class), traveled a lot and read a lot. In high school, he met Alexander Singer – also a future director and the creator of many feature films and numerous episodes of TV series, including The Hill Street Post, Star Trek: Space Station, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager – their conversations together eventually encouraged Stanley to devote himself to directing in the future. In order to graduate from high school, he had to pass the relevant exams (known as a major) – he chose fine arts under teacher Herman Getter. Getter (who won Kubrick”s affection in that he considered photography an art form, a rare view at the time) introduced him to the basic techniques used in filmmaking – on the theoretical side, since the school did not have film cameras. In later years, Kubrick and Getter corresponded with each other.
In January 1946, Stanley Kubrick graduated from William Howard Taft; he ranked 414th out of 509 graduates, effectively shutting him out of college (at the time, many young soldiers demobilized after the end of World War II under the so-called G.I. Bill were entering colleges that were overflowing with students); he then devoted himself entirely to working with the Look (including an intriguing series of photographs documenting a day in the life of boxer Walter Cartier, including a fight in the ring with Tony D”Amico). On May 29, 1948, he married You Metz, a Getter classmate a year and a half younger; the newlyweds moved from the Bronx to the artsy Greenwich Village neighborhood. He was a frequent visitor to the Museum of Modern Art and local movie theaters. He admired the films of Orson Welles, Sergei Eisenstein and Max Ophüls.
Day of battle, Flying father, Sailors
Stanley and Alexander Singer kept in touch with each other after graduating from high school. The ambitious Singer planned to make a film version of The Iliad, and even contacted the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio about it, but studio executives politely declined. Kubrick decided to start by making a short documentary picture, and in 1950, with Singer”s help, he made the 16-minute documentary Day of the Fight, documenting one day (April 17, 1950, to be exact) in the life of boxer Walter Cartier, who fought Bobby James at Laurel Gardens in Newark, New Jersey, winning by knockout in the 2nd round (this was the same Walter Cartier to whom Kubrick had devoted a series of photographs two years earlier). The cost of making the film was about $3900 (Singer later quoted about $4500); distributor RKO-Pathe, which had shown it in theaters in the This Is America series of shorts and which had given Kubrick $1500 to make it, bought it back for $4000. In addition to the cinematography (done with Singer), Kubrick edited, produced and soundtracked the film.
He invested the money he earned from Fight Day in another short documentary, Flying Padre, about Fred Stadtmueller, a Catholic priest living in Mesquero, Harding County in northern New Mexico, who uses a small plane called The Spirit of St. Joseph (The Spirit of St. Joseph) to travel between churches. Joseph (The Spirit of St. Joseph) to travel between his subordinate eleven churches, spread over 4,000 square miles (more than 10,880 square kilometers). As before, Stanley was responsible for cinematography, editing and sound. This film (was also a turning point in his career, as it was then that Stanley Kubrick finally decided to devote himself to a career as a director.
In 1953, he made the last of his documentary shorts, The Seafarers, a commercial filmed at the request of the international seafarers” union. This was the first commissioned work of Kubrick”s career; his main reasons for undertaking it were to work on color film for the first time in his career, as well as to raise funds for his feature debut, which also saw the light of day in 1953.
Fear and desire
Stanley Kubrick began work on his feature debut in 1951. The screenplay for The Trap, an allegorical tale of four ordinary soldiers trapped behind the front lines in enemy territory during an unspecified war and trying to return to their fellow soldiers, was written by Howard O. Sackler – an acquaintance of Kubrick”s. The first distributor of the film was to be a well-known producer at the time, Richard de Rochemont; eventually these duties fell to Joseph Burstyn. The film was shot in the Los Angeles area; since hiring a professional cinematographer would have been too expensive, Kubrick shot the film himself, using a rented (for $25 a day) Mitchell camera, which he was taught how to use by camera store salesman Bert Zucker, on 35mm film. The film was released on March 31, 1953.
Kubrick himself always spoke negatively about Fear and Desire – as the film was eventually titled – considering it an unworthy amateur film; as his career gained momentum, he halted presentations of his feature debut. When the copyright expired in the early 1990s and the film could be shown and distributed without the director”s permission, Kubrick bought up and destroyed all the copies he could reach. The only copy in good condition survives in a private collection and is the basis of the bootleg DVD versions of the film now available on the market.
Fear and Desire, the first independent feature in the history of the New York film scene, introduces several themes that would run through Kubrick”s work almost to the end. The cruel phenomenon of war, madness and cruelty as a constant, ever-present part of human nature, the individual being stifled by those around him, the fatalistic conviction that man essentially has no control over his fate – these themes, which would recur in various versions and variations in Kubrick”s subsequent films, were first marked precisely in Fear and Desire. It is also the first of Kubrick”s two films for which he did not write (or co-write) the screenplay.
A murderer”s kiss
In 1952, a year after his divorce from Ty Metz, Stanley Kubrick met Ruth Sobotka, an Austrian dancer three years older than him, who had immigrated to the United States just after the outbreak of World War II. They moved in together, and married in 1954. Alexander Singer was in Hollywood at the time, where he met a young producer and director – James B. Harris, whom he soon met with Kubrick.
In 1953, after completing work on The Mariners, Kubrick – again in collaboration with Sackler (both signed the film”s script) – began work on his next feature. Since, while working on the photo essays and documentary The Day of the Fight, Stanley had become intimately acquainted with the boxing community, he made the main character of the film precisely a boxer on a life turn, in love with a dancer, who in turn is seduced by her brutal and boorish employer. To produce the film, Kubrick, along with Harris, formed his own production company, Minotaur Productions.
Killer”s Kiss was released on September 28, 1955. Maintaining the poetics of film noir, it was a dark, grim crime story. It again featured the theme of chance determining human fate – when the protagonist is waiting for his beloved on the street, a group of drunken outlaws steals his scarf; when he moves away from the meeting place to retrieve it, thugs sent by the girl”s brutal employer murder a completely random person who was unlucky enough to be there at that moment. The city in which the film is set is depicted both very realistically and in a somewhat unrealistic way: the realistically depicted cafes, streets, squares and alleys resemble a strange, surreal, dehumanized maze.
Due to the film”s limited budget, many of the film”s scenes could not be staged, but were shot with a hidden camera; the reactions of random viewers captured on film are completely authentic.
Homicide. Film noir according to Stanley Kubrick
Another of Kubrick”s first feature-length works was an adaptation of the novel Clean Break by Lionel White (Kiss of a Murderer was the director”s last film based on an original idea – all of Stanley Kubrick”s later works were adaptations of novels or short stories), the story of a betting money heist and its consequences. Harris personally delivered the script to Jack Palance, but the latter didn”t even bother to read it (eventually Sterling Hayden played the lead role. The resulting film – eventually titled The Killing – was released on May 20, 1956.
Kubrick, working for the first time with a professional film crew and professional actors, slightly altered the novel”s pronunciation: the main characters are not hardened criminals, but unlucky people who are driven to the path of crime by desperation and the inability to find another way out of the trouble they have fallen into. Kubrick shot the film unconventionally, using, for example, wide-angle lenses, used for outdoor shots, to shoot interior scenes, giving them unusual sharpness and a specific perspective. It was also the first time that the director”s perfectionism made itself known, as he very carefully dissected all technical details, including the use of appropriate lenses. This led to conflicts with experienced cinematographer Lucien Ballard; when Kubrick ordered the use of a wide-angle lens, used for wide sets, to shoot scenes in interiors, Ballard used an ordinary one, considering Kubrick”s decision a mistake by a not yet very experienced director, to which Kubrick reacted immediately, telling Ballard to follow his instructions or leave the set and not come back. Ballard obeyed and from then on followed Kubrick”s instructions. The most difficult part was the shooting of the jump scene, especially the moment when the race begins and the horses take off from the stalls; having no money to rent a track and film the scene, the director persuaded Singer to invade the track with a camera during the real race and film the start before the security forces kicked him off the track. He succeeded in filming the scene on the first try.
The Killing was, for a crime film of the time, an innovative formal experiment: individual events were not recounted chronologically, but in a non-linear manner; although critics of the time complained that this made the picture difficult to understand, the experiment found numerous imitators years later – such as Quentin Tarantino, who in his famous film Pulp Fiction also tells the plot non-linearly, achronologically.
The film also featured – essential for Kubrick – the motif of chance determining human fate: for in the finale the protagonists” plans were crossed by a small dog that accidentally ended up in the wrong place.
Paths of Glory. The cruel logic of war
Kubrick”s next film was an adaptation of the novel Paths Of Glory by Humphrey Cobb, the story of three French soldiers who were falsely accused of cowardice during World War I (as a result of their commander”s sick ambition, they were assigned to capture an important, but also fiercely defended point of German resistance – Ant Hill; when the assault collapses – the command needs scapegoats so that it does not come out that the assault had no chance of success from the beginning) and after a caricatured trial convicted and executed to set a deterrent example to other soldiers. As Kubrick himself recounted, he found Cobb”s novel by accident in the waiting room of his father”s doctor”s office, where one of the patients had lost it.
He took a long time to complete the cast: due to the considerable cost of shooting the battle scenes, the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio agreed to finance the film only if a star was cast in the lead role – that of the lawyer for the three convicted soldiers, Colonel Dax. (In addition – after the release of The Red Badge Of Courage – studio executives had no desire to make another bleak, realistic war film.) Harris and Kubrick began work on an adaptation of Stefan Zweig”s crime novel The Burning Secret; MGM initially signed a contract with three screenwriters (in addition to Kubrick and The Killing co-writer Jim Thompson, the third was young writer Calder Willingham), but canceled when work on the script began to stall; Kubrick then convinced the studio to make Paths Of Glory. When preparations for the film stalled, suddenly a star was interested in the film – and a star of the first magnitude at the time. For the script fell into the hands of Kirk Douglas by chance.
Douglas” name and support led to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer financing the film; in order to fit within the cost imposed by the studio, Kubrick decided to shoot the film in Europe – the choice fell on the vast wasteland in the sub-Monachian Geiselgasteig. The crew consisted largely of Germans; although this caused language problems, the director highly appreciated their dedication to their work. Again Kubrick”s perfectionism made itself known: battle scenes were shot with many extras, the Ant Hill – the target of a failed attack by French soldiers – which was staged for the film, was divided into five, lettered sectors, and each extra was assigned a specific sector in which to spectacularly “die.” Such quantities of explosives were used during the filming of the battle scenes that Kubrick had to apply for special permission from the German Interior Ministry to get such a quantity. The scene in which the three convicts get their last meal – a fried duck – was repeated a total of 68 times; if the actors started eating – another duck had to be brought in.
Douglas was of the opinion that the film was worth making, although he felt it would not be profitable; Kubrick, in order to increase the commercial potential of the material, decided during filming to change the ending – in the new version, three soldiers were pardoned at the last minute. This change angered Douglas, who scolded the director on the set; Kubrick stoically agreed to return to the original script.
The film introduced another theme that was to recur a number of times in Kubrick”s works: the grim phenomenon of war, of institutionalized killing in the name of higher goals. Also in this film appeared the motif of irrational chance, a whim of fate: for the three condemned soldiers were chosen by the commanders of their units – Private Ferrol because he broke down under the influence of combat shock, while Corporal Paris because he witnessed how his superior through his stupidity caused the death of another French soldier, while the third of the condemned – Private Arnaud – was chosen by lot, although he was one of the bravest soldiers in the unit, decorated for bravery on the battlefield. The film also marked the theme of redemption brought by a woman: in the finale, a captured German singer, performing an old German song in a military casino, moves French soldiers to tears, bringing them temporary respite from the horrors of war. The role was played by German actress Christiane Harlan, known by the pseudonym Suzanne Christian (her grandfather Veit Harlan was the creator of Nazi propaganda films, including Jew Süss) – since 1959 Christiane Kubrick. (On June 17, 1967 Sobotka died by suicide.)
Douglas was right: the film (which was released on December 25, 1957) was not a box office hit, but it received a positive reaction from critics – in the United States, as it was received with mixed feelings in Europe. With a particularly negative reaction at the time of its release, the film was met in France, where it was even considered anti-French and banned from screening (it was also reluctantly received in West Germany, although more out of courtesy, since at the time Franco-German relations, improving since the end of the war, were extremely positive and German politicians feared that the presentation of a film considered anti-French might aggravate them. The French army has adamantly maintained that there were no showpiece, demonstrative executions during World War I to deter French soldiers from deserting, refusing to fight the enemy or retreating under enemy fire, although, as historians have been able to determine, at least one such showcase execution did take place (the soldiers were later rehabilitated and their families received a token compensation of 1 franc from the French government). The Geiselgasteig near Munich, then an abandoned field, was quickly transformed into a real-life film set, one of the largest and best-equipped in Europe – Europa Film Studios (in the 1980s Wolfgang Petersen shot The Ship and The Neverending Story at this very studio). The highly realistic, bleak, black-and-white images were later cited as a major inspiration by many filmmakers (including Steven Spielberg).
After the release of Paths of Glory, Kubrick was contacted by one of the director”s favorite actors – Marlon Brando, at the time already a great legend and Hollywood institution. Brando planned to shoot a very ambitious western, meant to top everything created in the genre so far – One-Eyed Jacks (however, the perfectionist, autocratic director and the equally autocratic big star were unable to work together, and eventually after a few months Brando fired Kubrick, taking over as director himself.
Stanley Kubrick was not long out of work. He was quickly contacted by Kirk Douglas, who at the time, under the aegis of his newly created company Bryna Productions (named after Douglas” mother), began work on a film about Spartacus and the slave revolt in ancient Rome. Shooting had already begun on Spartacus, but the actor”s chosen director, Anthony Mann, was unable to handle a major production (although he did make the epic El Cid shortly thereafter) and was fired after shooting the film”s opening scene in the quarries. Overnight, without even having a chance to get acquainted with the script or sets (he received the information that he was to appear on the set the next day by phone during an evening poker game with friends), his place was taken by Kubrick.
Under the direction of the new director, work on the film moved forward, but it was not without problems. Kubrick wanted to change the script, which he considered naïve and simplistic in places; his concepts (including. an intriguing narrative frame in which the entire story is a vision of a dying Spartacus, crucified at the Via Appia, as well as a scene, succinctly and accurately portraying the depravity and demoralization of the Roman patriciate, in which Crassus (Laurence Olivier) attempts to seduce Spartacus” slave and friend, Antoninus (Tony Curtis), sophisticatedly comparing sexual preference to culinary preference, and reducing morality to a matter of free choice) were rejected by screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and Douglas himself. (In the restored version of the film, made in the early 1990s, the scene in the bathhouse involving Crassus and Antoninus was restored, but it turned out that only the visual layer survived, with no sound. Curtis re-recorded his lines; Olivier, who died in July 1989, was replaced by another acclaimed actor with Shakespearean pedigree – Anthony Hopkins). Again the director”s perfectionism made itself known: in the spectacular battle scenes, each of the thousands of extras had his or her designated place; in the scenes where the captured rebels hang from crosses over the Via Appia, each actor had the exact moment when he or she was supposed to moan; for the battle scenes Kubrick engaged extras with amputated limbs so that the cutting off of limbs with a sword during combat could be credibly depicted on screen (quite a few such shots were shot, but during rehearsal screenings the audience found them too shocking and most of them were cut out). The battle shots were shot near Madrid in the middle of summer, with the participation of 8,000 extras; many of them fainted from the heat.
Kubrick fought constant battles over how to frame, light and film individual scenes and the lenses used with experienced cinematographer Russell Metty, who constantly demanded that Douglas remove this Bronx Jew from the camera crane (for the director – as was Kubrick”s custom – shot some of the shots himself). Kubrick remained stoically calm: when, during the shooting of one of the interior scenes, he asked Metty to change the light, saying that he couldn”t see the faces of the characters because their lighting was too weak, the nervous cameraman kicked one of the lamps so that it landed on the set right next to the characters, to which the director politely asked him to correct the light, because now, in turn, the actors” faces were too brightly lit. The collaboration so finished off Metty”s nerves that at one point the cameraman left the set, declaring that he was unable to work with Kubrick; he agreed to continue working only after a long conversation with Douglas. (In the end, the torture of working with the autocratic, perfectionist director paid off: Russell Metty won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Spartacus.) Throughout his time on the set, Kubrick walked around in one suit, which he did not clean; when this began to bother the crew, they turned to Kirk Douglas, who interviewed the director; Kubrick then bought a new suit, which he treated identically to the previous one.
Kubrick was quite satisfied with the final result of his work (he again had the opportunity to deal with one of his constant themes: war, or more broadly – the phenomenon of institutionalized killing, of which the gladiators, who are being prepared for bloody combat in the arena, are the victims; the image of Spartacus – a sensitive, humanitarian man – presented in the film, who suffers defeat because he showed the human sides of his character, also agreed with his views and historiosophy; his humanity loses to the dehumanized, cold killing machine that is the Roman army, and Spartacus ends his life in a torturous, humiliating way – on the cross), but he was annoyed by the fact that he could not influence the script, which made him judge Spartacus as an overly simplistic and moralizing film, and he also disliked the portrayal of the main character as an individual without flaws or weaknesses, which he constantly argued about on the set with Douglas (it was their second and last film together). After some time, Kubrick sharpened his stance on Spartacus, renouncing the film. This was the last work based on someone else”s idea and script that he undertook in his career; from then on, he pursued only original ideas and scripts.
The film turned out to be a big box office hit; in addition to an Oscar for cinematography, it won Academy Awards for male supporting actor (Peter Ustinov – Lentulus Batiatus, the slave trader), production design and costume design. Spartacus also contributed to the eventual disappearance of the so-called blacklist – a black list of filmmakers suspected of pro-Communist sympathies, who were officially not allowed to work on films, and if they did, they had to go under pseudonyms, or their work was attributed to other people (Pierre Boulle, author of the book that was the basis of the film, was listed as the screenwriter, and he, too, received an Oscar for his screenplay). The screenwriter of Spartacus was Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted, and since he could not be officially named, Kubrick demanded that his name be the one to brand the script in the film”s credits. This demand so infuriated Douglas that the actor authoritatively demanded that Trumbo be listed as the screenwriter, and this was done. This was the first time that a filmmaker accused (rightly in this case) of communist views was nevertheless officially sanctioned as a co-writer of a big-budget Hollywood film.
After completing work on Spartacus, in 1960, Kubrick began work on another, this time a fully original project. He decided to adapt Vladimir Nabokov”s famous novel Lolita, the publication of which caused quite a scandal. With Nabokov, Kubrick quickly found a common language – both were accomplished, avid chess players. The first version of the script was written by Nabokov himself; since in its completed form it was about 400 pages long (as a rule of thumb, 1 page of a script translates into roughly 1 minute of completed film), the resulting script was quite significantly rewritten by the director himself together with Harris (although the credits list only Nabokov as the screenwriter).
The selection of actors proved to be a difficult task: it took a long time to find a teenager for the title role. The main candidate was Hayley Mills; however, her candidacy was blocked by her father John Mills at the insistence of Walt Disney, in whose feature films Mills had appeared; after seeing almost 800 girls, Kubrick finally chose Sue Lyon. He also searched for a long time for an actor to play Professor Humbert: the main candidate was James Mason, but at the time he was engaged by a London theater and could not perform. Kubrick kept looking; after a long and fruitless search (many well-known actors – including Laurence Olivier, Cary Grant and David Niven – refused to appear in an adaptation of Nabokov”s book, fearing that participating in a production based on such a scandalous book would destroy their careers) the play in which Mason was playing in London turned out to be a flop and the actor was available, which Kubrick immediately took advantage of. The role of Humbert”s mysterious nemesis, writer Clare Quilty, was given to British actor Peter Sellers; Sellers” acting versatility was memorable to Kubrick, who decided that he would still work with the actor.
The director quickly learned that making a film whose main character is a mature man in a passionate relationship with a teenage girl would be extremely difficult in early 1960s America; the book Lolita
In the end, the result was a film that failed to capture the sensual, perverse atmosphere of Nabokov”s novel, significantly shallowing the book, but offering something different in return: Kubrick (partly unwittingly) managed to draw an interesting picture of the America of the time between the end of World War II and the beginning of the moral revolution of the 1960s, an America still in the tight corset of moral restrictions, norms and prohibitions; an interesting picture of how tight, suffocating life restricted by such norms was. It was also the last film of the Stanley Kubrick – James B.Harris partnership; Harris decided to embark on an independent career as a director and producer.
Dr. Strangelove. The end of the world is not something very important, instead it is entertaining
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, New York was seen in America as one of the main targets for Soviet attack in the event of a nuclear war. Kubrick, who lived in New York, was keenly interested in the subject of nuclear conflict; his library contained a number of books on the subject, including Peter George”s thriller Red Alert, the story of a mad general who decides on his own to initiate a nuclear conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States. Kubrick bought the screen rights to the book and proceeded (with George”s help) to work on the script, having first thoroughly studied more than 50 books on nuclear war.
The adaptation of Red Alert was originally planned as a serious, grim thriller; however, at some point Kubrick noticed that a good portion of the scenes they had created with George and third screenwriter Terry Southern were actually very funny. The director decided to remove these scenes, or give them a serious dimension; then he perceived that these scenes were in fact very human and very plausible, as well as crucial to the course of the plot – so he decided to turn Red Alert into a macabre black comedy. Ultimately, Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Stopped Worrying And Love The Bomb just became a satirical macabre, scary comedy about the apocalyptic end of the world.
The film is set – as seen for a moment in the book, where a radio operator checks a code he received – on September 13, 1963 (that”s Friday the 13th). Mad General Jack D. Ripper , gripped by a vision of a communist conspiracy involving, among other things, the clandestine fluoridation of America”s water (a theory promoted in the second half of the 1950s by the right-wing, anti-communist American organization, The John Birch Society), gives his crews orders to drop atomic bombs on selected targets in the Soviet Union. A crisis staff meets at the White House, with the military and U.S. President Merkin Muffley and a mysterious scientist of German origin, Dr. Strangelove, debating what to do in this situation. General Buck Turgidson proposes to take advantage of the situation and the Russians” surprise and continue the attack; however, summoned to the staff meeting, the Russian ambassador (who causes a stir as he tries to take pictures with a small camera of the War Room, where the staff has gathered) declares that any nuclear attack on the Soviet Union will trigger a new, secret Soviet weapon, the Doomsday Machine, which will automatically turn on at the time of the attack and there will be no way to turn it off, and its explosion will cause a radioactive fallout that will last for almost a century, completely destroying life on Earth. The Doomsday Machine was to act as a last resort to prevent an attack on the USSR, as it would have led to the rapid annihilation of humanity; however, the news of it has not yet been made public – it was to be announced at the next Communist Party Congress, as the USSR”s First Secretary is very fond of surprises.
The decision is made to launch an armed attack on the base managed by Ripper and take control of the planes (they can only abort it if the message sent to them is preceded by the appropriate code, as all other messages will be automatically rejected by the on-board radios); although General Ripper commits suicide during the attack – the code manages to be found and passed to the planes in time; unfortunately, one machine, commanded by Major T. J. “King” Kong, has a damaged radio station and continues the attack, which ends with the dropping of a bomb (with difficulties – eventually the major has to make the drop manually, which ends with him falling out of the machine along with the bomb – sitting on it flippantly, he rips off his head the cowboy hat in which he had been parading all along, and makes loud shouts like a cowboy at a rodeo) on a rocket launcher in the town of Laputa, and so, consequently, the launching of the Machine. Turgidson and the other military men, however, are not particularly concerned – as Dr. Strangelove suggests (his right hand either tries to strangle him or goes up in a Nazi salute; a couple of times he mistakenly manages to address President Muffley as mein Führer), in specially prepared shafts, deep inside the Earth, quite tolerable living conditions can be prepared for a group of suitably selected people until the total annihilation of life on Earth, so that when radioactivity on the desolate Earth drops to an acceptable level, former democracy can be recreated on American soil. A proposal is made that among the chosen, there should be ten suitably selected women for every one man – to increase procreative possibilities (of course, each man will have to participate in this duty – one must sacrifice oneself for the good of mankind). Accompanied by the song We”ll Meet Again by Vera Lynn, the world – amid powerful nuclear detonations – ceases to exist.
Kubrick decided to make the film again in Europe; the choice was English studios. Much of the film”s action took place aboard the B-52 bomber; at the time it was the black horse of the US military, a new, super-powerful weapon whose design was top secret. Kubrick and production designer Ken Adam (who would go on to create sets for numerous Bond films) recreated the interior of the Super Fortress in minute detail, using the one and only published photo of the machine”s interior, a general outline of the aircraft and publicly available data from the B-52”s big brother, the B-29 bomber. Kubrick instructed Adam to scrupulously keep any data they relied on; which proved to be by all means justified, as the copy of the B-52 built by the filmmakers turned out to be a near-perfect copy of the real machine, so much so that CIA officials paid Adam a visit, as they suspected that he had illegally come into possession of the real, top-secret plans of the B-52.
The design of the War Room itself was quite difficult; the huge world map on the wall was a huge drawing on celluloid suitably illuminated from behind by huge lamps. These lamps were so powerful that at some point the celluloid began to melt; then a special cooling system was installed. Although you can”t see it on the screen (the film is in black and white – for the last time in Kubrick”s career), the table where the politicians deliberate is covered with green cloth, like a poker table in a casino; a suggestion that here the politicians are playing a poker game, deciding the fate of the world. A total of 16 kilometers of electric wires were used to supply electricity to this decoration.
For the role of General Turgidson, Kubrick chose George C.Scott; the actor was known for his explosive character and not very cooperative with directors, but Kubrick kept him in check in an extremely simple way: knowing that Scott was a great chess player, at the beginning of shooting he challenged him to a number of chess games – and he won all of them, which aroused such admiration of Scott that he obeyed all the director”s orders without hesitation. Later, however, he spoke of Kubrick with reluctance: the role entrusted to him, Scott tried to play seriously, but Kubrick urged him, as a rehearsal, to play individual scenes in an exaggerated, comical way – and it was these scenes that he later included in the film. He did the same with American actor Slim Pickens, playing the role of Major T.J. “King” Kong, commander of the B-52 aircraft; Kubrick did not tell Pickens until the very end that the film was to be a black comedy, he kept him convinced that it was a serious drama, thanks to which Pickens played the aviator in a very serious way, with extremely comic results. The role of the mad General Ripper was played by Sterling Hayden, known for The Killing. Kubrick also enlisted the services of Peter Sellers again; he played three roles in the film (using a different accent each time), the title role, RAF Major Lionel Mandrake and US President Merkin Muffley. The latter role was initially played by Sellers in an exaggerated manner, using a feminized, high-pitched voice and feminized gestures, but Kubrick convinced him to play the part seriously, making President Muffley an oasis of calm and reason among mad scientists and military men. Sellers” showmanship on the set appealed to the director to such an extent that he allowed the actor to improvise his lines in front of the camera – something quite unusual for the perfectionist Kubrick, who always required actors and crew to strictly adhere to his guidelines. Sellers” fee – $1 million – ultimately consumed 55% of the film”s budget.
Originally, the film was supposed to end with a big brawl over cakes and other culinary delights, in the spirit of the best burlesques of silent cinema (hence the large table standing in the War Room laden with all sorts of delicacies). A suitable scene was shot, but Kubrick decided not to include it in the film, as in his opinion it was too farcical. This decision was sealed by the assassination of President Kennedy; in the film, President Muffley falls after receiving a blow to the face with a cake, upon which General Turgidson declares: Gentlemen! Our brave young president has just fallen in glory! (Originally, the film”s premiere was just set for the day of Kennedy”s visit to Dallas – November 22, 1963. Eventually, the film was released on January 23, 1964).
Although the film was not initially received very favorably (after the first screenings it was considered unsuitable for presentation, a disgrace to the company Columbia Pictures), its macabre, black humor was quickly appreciated. For the film”s inspiration, especially the scene when General Turgidson advises the President to continue the attack and start a nuclear war, because, as he says: Mr. President, I”m not saying we won”t get our asses handed to us, but estimates indicate that we”ll only lose 20 million citizens; 30 million, at worst! was invoked by Oliver Stone. This was the first time that someone in a movie showed the American military and government in such a way; a government, indifferent to the fate of its citizens, a government hostile to its citizens. It was an extremely incendiary vision. Although there is actually no War Room in the White House, its image was so memorable to viewers that President Ronald Reagan, when he was first given a tour of the White House, asked that the War Room be shown to him. In the 1990s, Dr. Strangelove ended up in the National Library of Congress of the United States, as a painting of special artistic value.
The film also aroused the interest of the CIA and the Pentagon; this included the ease with which the filmmakers perfectly recreated the top-secret design of the plane based on residual, publicly available data, as well as the scene in which Mandrake tries to call the White House to relay a top-secret code cancelling a nuclear attack, but doesn”t have change for a pay phone, while a subordinate soldier refuses to shoot off the door to a Coca-Cola vending machine with change in it because it is private property; military officers examined in detail whether there could indeed be a situation in which a super-important message would not arrive on time for such trivial reasons as a lack of change for a payphone. The plot was also another study in Kubrick”s oeuvre of the impact of absurd chance on human fate.
After completing the film, the Kubricks decided to stay permanently in the UK, where the mood was far different from the nuclear paranoia overflowing the United States in the first half of the 1960s. As Christiane Kubrick recalled, New York radio was dominated by information about nuclear shelter supplies, behavior in the event of a nuclear attack and how to announce it, while when they arrived in Britain, the first thing they heard on the radio was advice on what kind of nitrogen fertilizer to use to fertilize the soil when growing ornamental grasses. The Kubricks acquired a small estate in Abbott”s Mead; in 1978 they moved to Childwicksbury Manor in Harpenden (about 40 km from London), where the director lived for the rest of his life.
2001: A Space Odyssey. Beyond Infinity
After completing Dr.Strangelove, Kubrick”s interest turned to science fiction cinema. The director set out to create a science-fiction film that had never been seen before; a picture that combined a realistic portrayal of the realities of space travel with a philosophical basis.
After watching dozens of different science-fiction films and reading a great number of short stories, novellas and popular science books, Kubrick chose Arthur C. Clarke”s small-volume short story The Sentinel, about a mysterious extraterrestrial being overseeing the development of civilization on Earth. The director invited Clarke to London and together they began working on the script for the future film.
Once the script was completed – Kubrick began shooting in London studios. They lasted, which for the cinema of the time was a record time, almost three years (as the anecdote goes, one of the heads of the producing Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio asked Kubrick at one point if the year 2001, appearing in the title, was not supposed to be the year of the film”s premiere); this was again contributed to by the perfectionism of the director, repeating endlessly even seemingly simple shots, as well as considerable technical difficulties. The opening sequence of The Dawn Of Man (the camera was allowed to rise to a strict height, above which London”s famous double-decker red buses would be in its field of view. Huge difficulties were posed by the most symbolic object in the film: a huge, black, cuboidal monolith – it had to be made of suitably glossy material, and on top of that, when setting it up on the set, the crew had to be very careful not to leave a handprint on it. Great difficulties were caused by the realization of a seemingly simple sequence in which astronaut Dave Bowman exercises physically on board the Discovery ship, running around its interior on its walls: for this scene a huge wheel was built, inside which the decoration of the ship”s interior was placed: the huge wheel spun, set in motion from the outside by a special motor; Keir Dullea, who played Bowman, ran inside on a moving walkway rotating at a constant speed, still being at the very bottom of the wheel, while part of the decoration at a different speed rotated with the camera around it, which in the end produced the effect Kubrick expected, as if it were Bowman running along the corridor and walls around the interior of the station. (The structure was considered extremely dangerous: all personnel operating the big wheel were required to wear safety helmets at all times.) The simulation of a weightless state was also quite difficult: in one sequence, a space stewardess catches a fountain pen drifting freely in the air, lost by one of the passengers going to the moon on the shuttle – this seemingly simple scene turned out to be very difficult to film, since for a long time no one managed to figure out how to sensibly fix the pen in empty space to create the illusion of its free floating – all wires and strings were abandoned, since despite various tricks they were always visible on the screen. In the end, Kubrick came up with the idea of attaching the pen to a transparent Plexiglas plate; an attentive eye would spot a slight reflection of light on the plate on the screen.
Clarke and Kubrick decided on the title 2001: A Space Odyssey; for they found that to the ancient Greeks the boundlessness of the seas posed as much of a mystery as the boundless blackness of the Cosmos did to the people of the mid-1960s. In its final form, the film was an intriguing, philosophical lecture on the history of mankind, and on the unchanging animal nature of man, despite the technological stowage (the raw meat fed to human ancestors in the film”s opening sequence looks as appetizing as the colorless mush fed to astronauts in Space; the first tool that an ape, the ancestor of Man, invents under the influence of the suddenly appearing black cuboidal monolith is a large bone with which to smash another ape”s skull), represented a vision of an intriguing opposition – dehumanized Humans versus a humanized, sentient Machine. The death of astronaut Poole-despite the fact that viewers earlier witness the family moment of Poole”s birthday wishes from his parents via videophone-doesn”t arouse much emotion in viewers, nor does the death of the hibernated astronauts aboard the Discovery; while the “death” of the deactivated HAL 9000 is moving to viewers; likewise, its mistakes-a peculiar manifestation of the machine”s humanity-induce sympathy in viewers.
The film is divided into several parts: the first is Dawn of Man, the story of a tribe of monkeys from the African plain, competing with another tribe for access to a watering hole. One night, suddenly, a mysterious black monolith appears near the headquarters of these monkeys, causing a visible stir in the monkeys; soon after, one of the monkeys, rummaging at a skeleton lying on the plain, experiences a daze and invents its first tool – a mace, which it soon uses in the conflict over the watering hole, smashing the monkey from the rival tribe”s head; in an ecstasy of triumph, the monkey throws the bone into the sky.
A falling bone suddenly turns into a spacecraft gliding through space: we are transported tens of thousands of years ahead, to a world of regular space travel, in which spaceships, moving through space, dance a veritable dance in empty space (the sounding board for this sequence is Johann Strauss”s waltz On the Beautiful Blue Danube). As it turns out, American scientists, while exploring the moon, have found an unusual object under its surface – a large, shiny, black cuboidal monolith. When they proceed to investigate – the monolith suddenly emits a very strong radio pulse. (In his book 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clarke explains that the monoliths, in their own way, track the development of civilization: the discovery of the monolith beneath the Moon”s surface was evidence that civilization had reached the stage where it could leave its planetary cradle and begin colonizing other planets).
The next sequence of the film is devoted to the voyage of the Discovery spacecraft towards Jupiter: a group of astronauts is observed by the audience during the ordinary, everyday activities of another routine mission. The routine disappears when the ship”s super-intelligent computer HAL 9000 (as Kubrick and Clarke always claimed, it was a complete coincidence that the next three letters in the alphabet are I, B, M, respectively) begins to show signs of damage, erroneously indicating that certain components of the ship are damaged, although their examination indicates that they are fully operational. (An attentive viewer will have already noticed some signs of HAL”s malfunction: in one scene, the computer is playing a chess game with Bowman. At one point, after making another move, HAL 9000 presents Bowman with the rest of the game, leading to a two-move defeat – but one of the moves HAL mentions is a forbidden move in this particular arrangement of figures, and HAL can give the defeat not in two moves, but in three. Stanley Kubrick, as an excellent and experienced chess player, could not have made such a mistake – probably a discreet suggestion that HAL 9000 is not functioning properly). Astronauts Bowman and Frank Poole, after deliberation, decide to temporarily disconnect the computer; HAL, however, reads their plans (it can”t hear what the astronauts hidden in the soundproof escape pod are talking about, but it can read their lips), which ends with the death of Poole working outside the ship and several hibernating astronauts, while Bowman, also outside Discovery, is forced to get to the ship in a risky way that requires him to stay in open space without a vacuum suit for tens of seconds. The risky operation succeeds and Bowman disconnects HAL; he then reads the video message stored in its memory, reporting the discovery of a monolith on the Moon and the radio transmission it sent toward Jupiter; it is the significance of this signal that the Discovery crew is to investigate, as they were to be told upon reaching the vicinity of the giant planet.
In the film”s final sequence, the Discovery reaches the vicinity of Jupiter, where a huge black monolith is drifting in space. Bowman, in a small ship, sets off toward it, at one point crossing a mysterious gateway, and after traveling through unusual, phantasmagoric landscapes, finally arrives at a small Victorian-style room where Bowman rapidly ages and dies, only to be reborn as an embryo – the Star Child.
A hallmark of The Odyssey was the enormous attention to faithfully depicting the realities of space travel: the space station spins around its axis at such a speed as to produce artificial gravity equal to that of Earth, there is no sound in open space. Kubrick did not avoid some mistakes, at times caused more by technical limitations than lack of knowledge: when a space lander settles on the surface of the moon, the lunar dust it stirs up falls to the surface at an “earthly” speed, even though on Earth the gravity is six times that of the moon. Kubrick was well aware of this error, but was technically unable to avoid it. Similarly, Dave Bowman, trying to return to Discovery without a vacuum suit, which means staying in the open vacuum of space for a period of time (which, contrary to popular belief, is as survivable as possible for humans – in studies, monkeys survived in open space for 80-90 sec, and after a period of being in the vacuum for about 60 seconds and being pulled back to the spacecraft, they behaved exactly as they did before the experiment, showing no physical or mental deficiencies), just before coming into contact with the vacuum of space takes air in its lungs; this would be fatal, as it would cause the lungs to burst, the astronaut should rather make as full an exhalation as possible.
There was a lot of difficulty in creating the film”s music; Stanley Kubrick initially turned to renowned film music composer Alex North; to help him get the mood right, Kubrick created a set of well-known classical music recordings (including. On the Beautiful Blue Danube by Johann Strauss, Richard Strauss”s Tako rzecze Zaratustra, Aram Khachaturian”s Gajane Ballet Suite) and contemporary avant-garde music (Requiem for soprano, mezzo-soprano, two mixed choirs and orchestra, György Ligeti”s Adventures and Light Eternal). North composed quite a bit of music, from which Kubrick selected some for use in the film; however, he ultimately decided to abandon North”s music and use a selection of recordings he had just compiled. The director did not inform the composer of his decision; North found out all this while watching the finished film, which was a bitter disappointment for him. This was not the end of the problems with the soundtrack; one of the Ligeti compositions used – Adventures – was modified by Kubrick for the film without asking the necessary permission of the composer, who took the director to court and won substantial compensation.
At first, the film, which premiered on April 9, 1968, was received with mixed feelings (the audience didn”t quite like the open form of the film, allowing each viewer to make their own individual interpretation of the presented plot. However, Kubrick”s innovativeness, the multitude of cultural, philosophical and religious references hidden in the film”s plot (in the finale, Bowman, dying, lets a glass shatter from his hand – this scene was associated with a Jewish nuptial ceremony, where the shattered glass vessel symbolizes the transition from one life to another) were quickly appreciated; today the film is considered one of the most important pictures in the history of cinema. It was for 2001: A Space Odyssey that Stanley Kubrick received the only Oscar of his career – for the development of visual effects.
Immediately after completing work on 2001, Kubrick set to work on the film he considered his life”s work – a biography of Napoleon I. He downloaded hundreds of different books on the Emperor from the United States and Europe, and established a relationship with the famous researcher of Napoleon”s history, Professor Felix Markham.
The leading role in the film was to be played by Jack Nicholson. Kubrick”s preparation for working on the script was something unprecedented in the world of cinema: the director”s associates recall a huge closet, divided into hundreds of drawers, in which detailed information about Napoleon”s life was grouped by individual days – so that Kubrick could check at any time what the Emperor was doing on September 12, 1808, for example. Kubrick”s associates liaised with the Romanian government, found suitable open-air locations within Romania, secured the hiring of thousands of Romanian army soldiers as extras in the battle scenes (the Romanian government, in order to be able to supply the necessary number of soldiers, planned an additional forced draft of 8,000 conscripts); Kubrick and his associates also spoke with doctors and pharmaceutical companies to ensure that the British part of the team received the proper vaccines and medicines before the expedition to southern Europe. The production side of the film was also planned in detail: in order to save the cost of making tens of thousands of uniforms for the extras, Kubrick came up with the idea that extras visible in the further set would wear specially prepared costumes made of paper – much cheaper and quicker to prepare than regular costumes, and indistinguishable on screen.
The fact that work on Napoleon was indefinitely suspended was decided by chance. At the time Sergei Bondarchuk”s film Waterloo, telling the story of the legendary battle, was released. Despite a very good cast (including Rod Steiger as Napoleon), the film was a box office failure, causing the producers of Napoleon to withdraw their funding for fear of another failure. By the end of his life, Kubrick had tried several times to return to the project, but without success. Currently, Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov is trying to direct Napoleon; Martin Scorsese has taken over as producer.
Mechanical Orange. Ultra-violence and Beethoven
After suspending work on Napoleon, Kubrick looked around for his next project. He decided on a screen adaptation of a 1962 novel by Anthony Burgess, once given to him by a friend, The Mechanical Orange [this was the title commonly adopted in Poland, although a better translation of the original title A Clockwork Orange would be A Spring Orange or A Twisted Orange, both of which function in some Polish translations of Burgess” book].
The main protagonist of the anti-utopian novel, set in an unspecified future in Great Britain, is a teenager, Alex, a great lover of Beethoven, who, together with a group of similar teenagers (he refers to them as droogs – the slang they use is a peculiar mixture of English and Russian), commits various acts of violence, including the rape of two ten-year-old girls, the severe beating of a well-known writer and the brutal rape of his wife. But at one point Alex”s luck runs out: one of the assaults turns out to be a trap planned by Alex”s reluctant leadership comrades, and the boy ends up in jail, especially when it turns out that the victim of the assault – Catlady – died as a result.
After some time, Alex gets a chance to leave prison at the price of taking part in a novel experiment designed to deprive humans of the ability to do evil. The experiment involves forcing a drugged prisoner to watch violent scenes (a special device prevents him from closing his eyes), resulting in an instilled aversion to violence.
The rehabilitated Alex is released, but this is only the beginning of his troubles. Upon his unexpected return home, he is by no means welcomed by his parents with open arms; he is attacked by a group of his former victims, and his revulsion to violence does not allow him to defend himself; the policemen who arrive on the scene turn out to be Alex”s former comrades, drive him to the woods and brutally torture him. Severely beaten, Alex ends up in a house whose host turns out to be the writer he once battered. This one (his wife died in the aftermath of the rape) does not recognize him at first (Alex and his companions wore fancy masks during their nocturnal escapades), but Alex, through his carelessness, reveals his identity. Maddened by the pain of losing his beloved wife, the writer decides to take revenge. He gets Alex drunk with wine mixed with sleeping pills, locks him in the attic of the house and starts playing Beethoven at full volume (Alex has revealed himself that a side effect of the therapy is a loathing of the composer”s music – his works accompanied the violent movies he had to watch during the experiment). The suffering Alex can”t stand the physical torment Beethoven”s music is causing him, and in despair throws himself from the window.
When he regains consciousness in the hospital, it turns out that the writer has been arrested and the experiment Alex was subjected to has been condemned, which leads to changes in the government. Alex regains the ability to do evil and listen to Beethoven; however, after some time, he decides to abandon his former lifestyle and settle down.
For the role of Alex, Kubrick chose Malcolm McDowell – then after the success of Lindsay Anderson”s If… (If…) (1968). The role of the writer was played by Patrick Magee, while the role of his wife – after the resignation of the originally chosen actress, who couldn”t stand filming a brutal rape scene for a whole day – was played by Adrienne Corri. For the role of the caretaker of the wheelchair-bound writer, Kubrick chose a bodybuilder; David Prowse, who played the role a few years later, played the physical character of Lord Darth Vader (the black actor James Earl Jones, who underlay Vader”s voice, also appeared in an episode in Kubrick”s film – he played a member of the bomber crew in Dr. Strangelove).
Kubrick decided to write a screenplay based on the American edition of the novel, truncated by the last part, in which Alex decides to settle down. The shoot took six months; it was shot mainly in London. They were particularly difficult for McDowell: in the scene of Ludovic”s experiment, he was strapped to a chair and his eyelids were immobilized with special clamps – to keep his eyes from drying out, they were regularly moistened with saline. On one occasion, one of the doctors accidentally scratched his cornea, which caused him a great deal of pain; to the actor”s shrill scream, Kubrick responded stoically: Don”t worry. I”ll spare your other eye. (Since working on A Clockwork Orange, McDowell has suffered from a fear of using eye drops.) The sex scene with the two teenagers (they are older than in the novel, and sex with them is consensual) was shot in a single, almost forty-minute take, which was then sped up considerably. There was also a lot of difficulty in shooting the scene of the writer beating and raping his wife; despite numerous retakes, the director still thought the scene was too static and ordinary. At one point Kubrick asked McDowell if the actor could dance; when the actor denied it, the director asked if he could sing. For an affirmative answer, Kubrick instructed McDowell to sing a song during the rape scene; Malcolm sang the only song whose words he knew. The resulting scene, when Alex sings the title song from Singin” In The Rain while catcalling the helpless writer lying on the floor, has become a cinema classic. The rape scene was shot with a number of pornographic details, which Kubrick discarded in the final edit; he ordered the unused shots to be destroyed after the editing was completed.
The film”s music was composed by American composer, trained as a physicist and musician, Walter Carlos (now, after gender correction surgery, Wendy Carlos), who gained fame in the late 1960s with albums of adaptations of classical music, including the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Johann Sebastian Bach, recorded using the first synthesizers; for the film, he created a number of similar adaptations of music by Beethoven and Rossini (Kubrick also used original music by both composers, as well as some cloying hits from the late 1960s and early 1970s (I Wanna Marry A Lighthouse Keeper, Overture To The Sun). Kubrick also planned to use excerpts from the Pink Floyd group”s Atom Heart Mother suite in the film, but since he intended to modify these excerpts quite significantly, the band”s leader, Roger Waters, did not agree. This came back to haunt him twenty years later: in the song Perfect Sense Part I, from the album Amused to Death, released in September 1992, Waters wanted to use the sampled voice of HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but Kubrick refused permission on the grounds that doing so would set a precedent, leading to countless requests for permission to use excerpts from his films” soundtracks – although a few years earlier, hip-hop group The 2 Live Crew, wishing to use the voice of a Vietnamese prostitute from another Kubrick film, Full Metal Jacket, in their recording of Me So Horny from the album As Nasty As They Wanna Be, had easily received such permission. Exasperated, Waters included a sarcastic commentary on the whole situation on the album, recorded backwards – an ironic “thank you” to the director. After Kubrick”s death, the director”s widow, Christiane Kubrick, agreed to the musician”s use of the relevant samples, and on Waters” concert album In The Flesh – Live dating from 2000, HAL 9000”s voice was featured. In turn, Atom Heart Mother itself made an appearance in the film: in the scene in which Alex seduces two teenage girls in a music store, you can clearly see a distinctive cover with a cow on one of the shelves.
When Stanley Kubrick presented the completed film to the classification committee, it turned out that because of Alex”s sex scene with two girls, the film would receive an X category in the United States – as a rule, pornographic films were assigned to this category (although John Schlesinger”s Oscar-winning Midnight Cowboy also received an X category). Kubrick was furious, as it was precisely to avoid this notorious and severely limiting film distribution category that he significantly sped up the relevant scene on the screen, but the head of the classification committee was concerned about the precedent, as any pornographic filmmaker could slightly change the speed of the erotic scene and demand that his work be assigned to a lower category allowing wide distribution. In the end, Mechanical Orange was given an X category.
The film was released on December 19, 1971, and immediately provoked heated discussions, Kubrick was accused of aestheticizing violence (the most violent scenes are filmed in an unreal way, as if they were some kind of strange ballet, and are illustrated by classical music – for example, the overture to Rossini”s opera The Thieving Magpie), exuding brutality and rape. When several groups of juvenile delinquents in Britain began to stylize themselves as the gang of droogs from the film, Kubrick decided to withdraw the picture from theaters and ban its screening, which was lifted only after his death; cases of illegal screening of the film were always met with a violent response from the director, who enforced his ban through the courts.
The essential theme of the film is one of the fundamental questions of Kubrick”s cinema: the question of whether good and evil can be imposed on someone; whether evil can be rejected by man, or whether it is an enduring part of his nature that cannot be gotten rid of. Kubrick”s thesis is that evil is such an enduring part of human nature that the ability to consciously choose evil is, in fact, the measure of humanity; that man deprived of this ability becomes a mechanism, the title”s screwed-on orange, something seemingly alive, but in fact mechanical, controlled without the participation of his will. (The original title is an untranslatable, bilingual play on words: orange is orange in English, orang is Malay – which polyglot Burgess knew well, as he lived in Malaya for many years; the scene of the brutal rape of the writer”s wife has its source in Burgess” Malay experiences – man; so the title can in fact be translated as screwed man). Other allusions were also sought in the film, including Nazism, Nietzschean philosophy, while some critics saw the film simply as a venomous portrayal of Britain under socialist rule.
The film received four Oscar nominations, three of which went to Kubrick himself: for Best Picture (as producer), Adapted Screenplay and Director – The French Connection won in each of these categories. Anthony Burgess himself approached the film with mixed feelings: he didn”t like the fact that, thanks to the film, out of his entire extensive fiction output the greatest fame came from the novel, which he himself considered a not very noteworthy side work; he objected to Kubrick”s decision to base the screenplay on the American abridged edition; he was irritated by the considerable changes (as critics noted, the film and book Burgess are in many respects quite different). In his later works, he mocked the director in a veiled manner several times.
The painting seen in the director”s home was painted by Christiane Kubrick; it went into the living room of Kubrick”s home after the shooting was completed.
Barry Lyndon. In candlelight
After completing work on A Clockwork Orange, Warner Bros. executives offered Kubrick to direct an adaptation of William Peter Blatty”s best-selling novel The Exorcist, based on a script by the author himself. Kubrick was very interested in the project, but the studio, fearing the director”s by then legendary perfectionism and very long shooting time, eventually set its sights on William Friedkin”s notorious The French Connection (who, by the way, turned out to be a similar perfectionist and shot the film over 226 shooting days in one year). Kubrick then decided to use the vast knowledge of the realities of the Enlightenment era that he had gained while preparing to make a film about Napoleon. He had intended to make an adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray”s novel The Vanity Fair, but ultimately decided that he would not be able to sensibly cram the novel into the framework of a three-hour show. He then decided to adapt Thackeray”s other novel, The Doles and Woes of the Honorable Mr. Barry Lyndon, for film.
Since the copyright to Thackeray”s novel had expired, practically anyone could adapt it into a film. To avoid a repeat of the situation that a competing production would prevent his film from being made, Kubrick decided to keep it as secret as possible what kind of film he was going to make. Warner Bros. agreed to finance a film of unknown content, with the only condition that the main role be played by one of the list of the ten highest box office grossing actors of 1973; after the number 1 on the list, Robert Redford, rejected the proposal, Kubrick chose Ryan O”Neal, known from Love Story (this was the only year O”Neal on the list of the ten highest box office grossing actors appeared). The role of Lady Lyndon was given to Marisa Berenson (she died on September 11, 2001.) The role of Lord Bullingdon was played by Kubrick”s friend Leon Vitali (after his role in Barry Lyndon he gave up acting, devoting himself to assisting – he was Kubrick”s assistant for work on all of the director”s later works). The film also featured several actors familiar from Kubrick”s earlier works: playing Captain Quinn, Leonard Rossiter played a scientist in Space Odyssey; Steven Berkoff, appearing in an episodic role as Lord Ludd, appeared in A Clockwork Orange as a policeman interrogating an arrested Alex at the police station; and Patrick Magee (Chevalier de Balibari) is none other than a writer from that film.
The film, eventually titled Barry Lyndon, was shot in natural settings – old 18th-century castles and estates across Britain and Ireland. At some of the estates, the film crew had free rein and unlimited filming time; at others, meanwhile converted into museums, Kubrick and his crew could only shoot if there were no visitors at the time. After some time – when information surfaced that the Irish Republican Army was preparing an assassination attempt on the crew – Kubrick and his men returned permanently to England. In order to capture the atmosphere of 18th-century Europe as perfectly as possible, Kubrick decided that the set would not be lit by electric light, but would film interior shots by candlelight and natural sunlight (eventually, some shots were lit by electric light – huge spotlights were set up outside the windows of buildings to imitate sunlight; during the scene of Barry”s duel with Lord Bullingdon, you can see that the light coming from outside has a slightly bluish tint that sunlight does not have). Since no director had ever before dared to film solely by candlelight, Kubrick needed special lenses to enable filming at such low light levels; eventually, for about $100,000, he purchased optics from the Carl Zeiss Oberkochen company that had been custom-made for NASA to photograph the surface of the invisible side of the moon. These were three Zeiss Planar lenses with a focal length of 50 mm and an aperture value of f
The preparation of the costumes posed quite a problem: costume designers Milena Canonero and Ulla-Britt Soederlund bought or borrowed a number of different period clothes, but it turned out that they were sewn for people with body proportions other than those of the 20th century, in addition to being noticeably shorter. All of the seams in the costumes were methodically ripped apart, each separate piece of clothing was redrawn on paper and a second drawing, proportionally enlarged, was made, then a copy of the costume fitting a slightly taller person than the original was based on these drawings, and the original was again carefully stitched together. Kubrick thought long and hard about the music, originally wanting to illustrate Barry Lyndon with music played by Ennio Morricone on classical guitar; he eventually entrusted Leonard Rosenman to compose and arrange the music, personally selecting a number of period compositions; permanently associated with the film was Georg Friedrich Händel”s Sarabande, which recurs repeatedly throughout the film, but in different instrumentation (e.g. e.g., in the scene of Barry”s duel with Bullingdon, only the basso continuo line from this piece was used in the background). Filming and post-production took a total of two years (it took six weeks to properly edit the duel scene between Barry and Bullingdon alone). The film was finally released on December 18, 1975.
Barry Lyndon was in many ways a different version of the Napoleon film; the original Napoleon script was an illustration of Kubrick-esque fatalism, the conviction that man has no control over his fate, he is merely a toy in the hands of capricious Randomness; it was an ironic parable of human fate, the story of a man who starts with nothing, to climb to the very top by his own labor, ambition and will to fight – only to then lose everything he has gained and return to the starting point. Such was Napoleon Bonaparte in the scenario, who climbed laboriously to the top through his military career, only to then, step by step, fall to the bottom and end his life as a poor exile. Such was also the protagonist of Barry Lyndon, the Irishman Redmond Barry, who by his own cleverness, courage, enterprise, and sometimes by happy chance, gained a title of nobility, mighty friends, a high position in society, a noble wife and lived to have a beloved son, only to lose everything step by step and end his life as a lonely, crippled shul. Here, too, there was a theme of redemption through the figure of a woman: for on his way Redmond Barry encounters Lischen, a young Prussian woman with a young child, who makes him an offer to stay with her (Kubrick here slightly modified the novel, in which Lischen was presented as a rather light-hearted character; by the way, Barry Lyndon is also portrayed a bit warmer than in the novel), but he leaves her and sets out to continue seeking adventure. Another of Kubrick”s topos was the motif of war, of organized killing in the name of mysterious “higher purposes,” as Redmond Barry takes part in the Seven Years” War first voluntarily on the English side, then, forcibly conscripted into the army after being exposed as a British deserter – on the Prussian side; however, the change is limited only to the color of the uniform, as on both sides the only thing a private soldier can face is death on the battlefield as anonymous “cannon meat.”
The result was an extremely colorful, artistic, painterly film (this painterly pedigree of the film can be seen in the peculiar execution of many scenes, where the camera initially focuses on a small part of the scene, followed by a slow departure of the camera until the whole is shown; it”s as if the viewer watches a small part of the picture first, only to then slowly embrace the whole. The film wasn”t a box office hit, but it received a positive reaction from critics (Pauline Kael wrote about time sinking into this film like a mosquito into amber) and won four Oscars (Kubrick was again nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay – Flight Over the Cuckoo”s Nest was better this time.
The Shining. In a vicious time loop where evil is eternal
In search of his next project, Kubrick once again turned to literature; his secretary recalled that he brought a huge box of bargain-bought books with him to his office, sat on the floor and read one book at a time at random; when he didn”t like the one he was currently reading, he hurled it against the wall and picked up another at random. When the sound of a book being thrown against the wall was not heard for a long time, a secretary entered Kubrick”s office and found him deeply immersed in reading Stephen King”s novel The Shining.
The screenplay was created in collaboration for the first time since 2001: Kubrick chose literary scholar Diane Johnson, author of the detective novel The Shadow Knows (which Kubrick also considered for a screen adaptation). They read the book together, then Kubrick and Johnson separately wrote a section of the screenplay based on each passage, after which Kubrick chose the passage he thought was better, or combined parts of both passages into one whole and that one was incorporated into the screenplay.
The incentive that ultimately pushed Kubrick to make The Shining was a short film he received in 1977; it contained a number of extremely fluid, virtuosic shots that were considered extremely difficult or impossible to execute. Kubrick contacted the film”s creator, Garrett Brown; it turned out that Brown had realized the shots using a special platform he had invented, attached to the camera operator”s body, which properly cushioned the cameraman”s movements, ensuring the tremendous fluidity of the shot. Kubrick invited Brown and his Steadicam – for that was the platform”s name – to the set of the film. Contrary to what is sometimes reported, The Shining was not the first film to use the Steadicam; it was used for some scenes in Rocky (1976).
According to some critics, the ability to use the Steadicam was Kubrick”s main reason for making the film; Barry Lyndon”s characteristic camera departures were replaced by a constant, obsessive forward motion, evident if only when the camera smoothly follows Danny traversing the endless corridors of the hotel on a tricycle. To further ensure the Steadicam”s mobility, it was mounted on a suitably adapted wheelchair.
For the lead role, Kubrick initially tried on Robert De Niro; in the end, he decided that the actor was not psychotic enough for Jack Torrance. Another candidate was Robin Williams; however, the audition shocked the director, who concluded that Williams was even too psychotic for Torrance. The role was eventually given by Kubrick to would-be Napoleon Jack Nicholson. The film”s opening sequence was filmed from the air in a country park in the state of Montana; the hotel was also found there, which was later rebuilt from photographic documentation at EMI Elstree studios near London as the film”s setting.
The film tells the story of Jack Torrance, an unfulfilled writer – a former alcoholic – who, in search of creative inspiration, accepts a job as a watchman with his wife Wendy and son Danny at the Overlook (Panorama) mountain hotel, which has been cut off from the world all winter, in order to work on his work there in peace. The sense of isolation can be dangerous: Jack”s predecessor, Delbert Grady, at one point went on a rampage and chopped up his wife and two daughters with an axe, then shot himself; but Jack doesn”t particularly care about the warnings.
When the hotel staff leaves for the winter, Danny strikes up a friendship with a black chef, Dick Halloran; it turns out that they both have the ability to communicate telepathically, which Dick calls shining, an ability that also causes them both to be able to see past events, which Halloran warns Danny against, saying that the images he can see are only a memory of the past, like a photograph that seems real but only represents what once happened.
The loneliness in the hotel becomes increasingly troublesome for the family: Danny, cruising the corridors of the Overlook on his tricycle, at one point encounters two girls – Grady”s murdered daughters – who urge him to stay with them forever. Jack, who can”t concentrate on his writing and spends his days bouncing a tennis ball machinically against the hotel walls, also has problems.
At one point Danny is tempted to enter room 237, which Dick warned him against, saying that this is where memories of the past are very strong. When a shocked Danny returns to his parents with strangling marks on his neck; Wendy accuses Jack of attacking her son, to which Jack reacts with astonishment. Upset by the accusations, he heads to the hotel”s empty ballroom and there, at the bar, strikes up a conversation with the bartender Lloyd (according to the conversation, Jack once accidentally broke his son”s arm when he scattered his papers on the desk.
The conversation is interrupted by Wendy, who runs into the ballroom (Lloyd then suddenly disappears, just as he appeared), telling Jack that someone else is in the hotel – Danny in room 237 was attacked by a woman. Jack goes to the room, where he finds a beautiful naked girl in the bathtub; however, when she hugs him, Jack is horrified to see in the mirror that he is hugging a decomposing corpse. Horrified, he flees the room. Shocked by the development, Danny telepathically calls Dick Halloran, who is in Florida, for help.
When Jack finds himself in the ballroom again, the room is suddenly full of people in 1920s costumes, with an orchestra playing jazz standards Midnight The Stars And You and It”s All Forgotten Now in the background. Behind the bar, Lloyd is shuffling again; when Jack tries to pay for a drink, the man refuses to accept payment, saying that Jack”s money is not important here. Torrance is accidentally doused with eggnog by another bartender; as he cleans Jack”s clothes in the bathroom, he introduces himself as Delbert Grady. To Jack”s reaction, who recalls the name, Grady replies: No, you are mistaken sir. I wasn”t here before; you were here. You have always been here. Grady also tells Jack about his daughters and his wife, which bothered him, so he corrected them. He also warns Jack about the danger from outside – the nigger.
Wendy, armed with a baseball bat, makes her way through the corridors of the hotel; when she reaches Jack”s desk, she discovers that the piles of typewritten cards actually contain a single sentence: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. [These cards were personally drafted by Stanley Kubrick. He also prepared similar cards in other languages for the film”s international distribution]. Then she is surprised by Jack, aggressive, frantic; Wendy stuns him at the last moment with a blow from a baton, then locks him in the hotel pantry, promising to call for help, which she is unable to do: Torrance immobilized the snow vehicle and destroyed the radio station.
Torrance is visited in the pantry by Grady, strongly criticizing him for his failure to take care of his wife and son; when Jack promises to improve, Grady lets him go and Jack begins a chase after his relatives with a fire axe in hand. Danny sneaks outside, but Wendy is unable to squeeze through the window; she is saved from death by the arrival of Halloran. The cook is killed by Jack; Wendy, after a long walk through the endless corridors (she too then sees amazing images: a hotel guest with a gunshot to the head and a man performing oral sex in a room with another disguised in a dog costume; this is a suggestion that Wendy, too, to some extent possesses the ability to “shine”) manages to escape outside; meanwhile, Danny escapes from his father in the garden maze that surrounds the hotel (there is none in the novel, instead there are trees trimmed in the shape of various animals that come to life and attack the boy; since Kubrick found such a scene technically impossible, he turned the animals into an elaborate maze); he manages to fool the deranged Torrance and sneak out of the maze to escape with his mother on Halloran”s snow vehicle; Jack gets lost in the maze and freezes to death.
Stephen King himself has always referred to The Shining with reluctance, complaining about the film”s considerable shortcuts and change in meaning; in the original novel, the Overlook Hotel is filled with ghosts and ghouls, while in Kubrick”s, evil comes from within the people living in the hotel, a purely human property. The changes from the initial book are so great that Polish film scholar Professor Alicja Helman writes that in fact this is not so much an adaptation of King”s novel, but rather a film autonomous from the book, independent of it. In the novel, the ghosts inhabiting the hotel are real – in Kubrick”s, they seem to be a product of Jack”s imagination: whenever Torrance sees a ghost and talks to it – he is, in fact, talking to a mirror; in the only scene where the wraith is not visible, the scene where Delbert Grady”s ghost frees Jack from the pantry – the egress of the deranged Torrance can be easily justified logically, by carefully watching the scene in which Wendy locks up her stunned husband, as it can be seen that she simply closes the pantry inaccurately. Wendy”s vision of a man dressed as a dog satisfying another man is justified in the plot of the novel, in the film it is merely a shocking image from the past. Kubrick changed the entire ending of the novel: in the book, Halloran survives an attack by a madman, is attacked with a roque stick, not an axe, and Jack dies in a steam boiler explosion that destroys the entire hotel.
The key shot in The Shining is the final shot: the camera”s invasion of a photograph in the hotel lobby, a black-and-white photograph from the Independence Day ball, July 4, 1921. In the foreground of the photograph, Jack Nicholson”s Jack Torrance is clearly visible; Torrance was already at the Overlook Hotel in 1921, according to the memories of the “wraiths” that Jack “talks” to, he was in the 1940s, he was in the period when the film is set – and he will appear at the hotel many more times. Jack Torrance is the embodiment of evil, which is an immanent, permanent part of human nature, an evil that comes from within man; Torrance will return to the Overlook Hotel as long as man exists – evil is eternal, just as it has appeared an infinite number of times in human history – so an infinite number of times it will return again.
The Shining has been interpreted differently: critics saw the film as a study of the decay and atrophy of feelings and family ties, a poetic, metaphorical vision of an artist”s creative crisis, comparable to Ingmar Bergman”s Hour of the Wolf. Jack”s face just before seeing the ghostly bartender for the first time was compared to Goya”s painting of Saturn devouring his own children. Attention was drawn to the reversal of typical horror movie motifs: evil lurks in the brightly lit corridors of the Overlook Hotel and in the endless snowy whiteness of the garden maze; in the finale, Wendy, fleeing with her son on a snow vehicle, seeks refuge in the boundless darkness. Allusions to Nazism were detected in the film: during a conversation in the bathroom, Grady orders Jack to murder his loved ones, but does not once use the word kill, talking instead about correcting his family, just as the Nazis used the terms final solution or evacuation when referring to the Holocaust, never explicitly talking about extermination or murder.
Shooting at Elstree studios near London took a full year, from April 1978 to April 1979; many shots were repeated dozens of times. The scene in which Dick Hallorann makes telepathic contact with Danny, who is trapped in the hotel, was repeated 70 times, causing Scatman Crothers, who plays the role, to have a nervous breakdown. The scene in which Wendy, defending herself with a baseball bat, retreats up the stairs in front of a crazed Jack was repeated 127 times, although Garrett Brown claimed that the scene was simply very technically difficult to film. Although Kubrick did not spare his actors – he was particularly protective of 5-year-old Danny Lloyd, who played little Danny; Lloyd (now an elementary school teacher) only learned from his peers that he had acted in a horror film as a teenager, as he recalled working on the set as incredibly fun. Kubrick again enlisted the services of actors who had already appeared with him: Delbert Grady is played by Phillip Stone, Alex”s father from A Clockwork Orange and the doctor from Barry Lyndon; playing the role of Lloyd”s bartender, Joe Turkel was Private Arnaud, a convict sentenced to be shot, in Paths of Glory; he had also previously appeared in The Killing.
The script itself was still undergoing constant changes during the course of shooting; the film was already re-edited and shortened by Kubrick after it hit the screens, and eventually the director removed two scenes from the already completed film: the examination of little Danny by a child psychologist and the rental of a snowmobile by Halloran at the base owned by Larry Durkin. Anne Jackson, playing the psychologist, and Tony Burton, appearing as Durkin in the final version of the film, do not appear on screen at all, but their names are in the credits. The film”s music, as in the case of A Mechanical Orange, was composed by Walter, or rather Wendy Carlos at the time, in collaboration with Rachel Elkind; the electronic compositions were complemented by a selection of recordings of avant-garde classical music (including. Krzysztof Penderecki”s Dawn) and swing standards from the 1930s. The film was promoted by a rather unusual theatrical trailer, featuring one scene from the film, Danny”s terrifying vision, which is also seen by Wendy in the finale: a scene in which blood pours out of a hotel elevator shaft in torrents. The realization of this one scene continued throughout the shoot, as Kubrick found each time that the splashing liquid did not resemble blood on the screen; eventually, after a year of work, the effect the director wanted was achieved. The trailer encountered problems with distribution, as at the time it was forbidden to show blood in a trailer; eventually Kubrick told the members of the relevant committee that it was simply water mixed with rust.
The film premiered on May 23, 1980, and again received mixed critical reactions (although many critics – including Roger Ebert – later revised their views), it became a box office hit instead. It also became a stimulus for various attempts at interpretation, as evidenced by the 2012 documentary film Room 237, directed by Rodney Ascher, which compiles the most radical theories on this horror film, based not only on conventional analyses of the language and structure of the film work, but also reaching for such non-obvious procedures as playing the film from the beginning and from the end at the same time, or searching for a subliminal message hidden in the image.
Full Metal Jacket. An expedition to the core of darkness
The plot basis for Stanley Kubrick”s next film was the novel The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford, who was a war correspondent during the Vietnam War. The novel – harrowing in its documentary brevity – tells the story of a young US Marine nicknamed Joker (he is Hasford”s alter ego, a war correspondent), from his training at a facility on Parris Island in South Carolina to his participation in the bloody fighting. Kubrick chose another war correspondent, Michael Herr, who had previously collaborated on perhaps the most famous film about the Vietnam War, Francis Ford Coppola”s Apocalypse Now (1979), as co-writer.
Unlike other films telling the story of the Vietnam War, Kubrick chose to shoot his film in a typically urban landscape; he sought out suitably photogenic ruins on the site of a London neighborhood slated for demolition, Isle Of Dogs, and among the remains of a demolished gasworks in Beckton (where Alan Parker had shot parts of the Pink Floyd film The Wall six years earlier), to which he imported dozens of specially selected live palm trees by sea from Southeast Asia. Instead of another set of battles in a tropical jungle, he depicted a battle in an urban jungle, specifically, the clash for the South Vietnamese city of Huế. Also, the Parris Island training center was rebuilt on a set in the UK.
It took a long time to complete the cast; Anthony Michael Hall, chosen for the lead role, was kicked off the set for ignoring the director”s instructions, and was replaced at the last minute by Matthew Modine – known for another Vietnam War picture, Alan Parker”s Birdy (Birdman) (1984). For the role of the company”s victim, the obese and not very bright Gomer Pyle, Kubrick chose New York independent theater actor Vincent D”Onofrio; he had to put on a lot of weight for the role, which ended badly for him, as he injured his ankle during the filming of one of the scenes, which ended a couple of months” break in shooting. After the end of shooting, D”Onofrio needed a year of persistent exercise to get back into shape. For the role of Hartman”s ruthless training sergeant, Bill McKinney, who played an Appalachian man-turned-killer in John Boorman”s Deliverance (1972), was first planned, but Kubrick, struck by his performance in that film, decided that he wouldn”t be able to mentally withstand staying on set in his presence. The next candidate was Tim Colceri; after some time overseeing his preparation for the role was Ronald Lee Ermey, a former Marine (who was engaged as a technical consultant for the film because he sent Kubrick a VHS tape on which he cursed for a quarter of an hour without repeating himself or stuttering once, despite the fact that at the time Leon Vitali, the director”s assistant, was throwing oranges at Ermey), decided that neither Colceri nor any other of Kubrick”s proposed actors was suitable for the role, and demanded that the director give the part to him. When Kubrick, who was sitting in his chair, refused, Ermey scolded him, demanding that he stand at attention when addressing an officer; the tone of his voice caused Kubrick to automatically stand at attention and was afraid to speak at all to Ermey, who was given the role of Hartman on the spot. Tim Colceri, as a consolation prize, got an episodic role as a psychopathic airborne gunner, murdering defenseless Vietnamese with series from a helicopter.
Ermey”s performance as Hartman appealed to Kubrick to such an extent that he made an exception for the actor and agreed to let Ermey improvise his lines, which was very special for the director (the only other actor Kubrick allowed to do this was Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove). Full Metal Jacket – for this was the title the film was eventually given (this is the term for a type of bullet in which the lead core is contained in a body made of copper, which increases the accuracy of the hit; in Poland, the film was known on the video market as Full Magazine, and is sometimes listed under this incorrect title in some Polish film lexicons) – was also the only film in which Kubrick was physically present on screen: in fact, the voice of the officer with whom the Cowboy talks over the radio in the sequence with the sniper in the film”s finale belongs precisely to Stanley Kubrick.
Full Metal Jacket”s storyline is divided into two parts; the first, Is that you, John Wayne? Or is it me? [the titles of both parts of the film appear in the script but are not in the finished film], is a detailed depiction of the training of young boys, preparing them to become ruthless killers. The plot axis of this part of the film is the conflict between the training officer, Sergeant Hartman, and the company”s victim, Gomer Pyle. When Hartman fails to change Pyle, he decides that the entire unit will suffer the consequences for his mistakes. This leads to an outbreak of organized violence against the inept soldier, to whom the rest of the unit administers a so-called blanket punch – a collective beating with towel-wrapped bars of soap at night (this was probably the main reason for Hartman”s decision, by the way – the group acts in an organized and unanimous manner, which is, after all, one of the goals of training). This act of violence changes Pyle, who slowly descends into madness, which ends tragically: on his last night at the center, Pyle first kills Hartman, then commits suicide.
The second part of the film – The smell of baking flesh is a widely accepted aroma – is entirely set in Indochina. This part of the film has a more episodic structure, being a series of adventures of Joker, who encounters various manifestations of cruelty of both sides of the conflict: a psychopathic member of the helicopter crew murders dozens of defenseless Vietnamese, including women and children, with series from the deck gun (Easy! They run slower, so you don”t have to aim so precisely. Isn”t war hell?), while Vietcong soldiers slaughter dozens of residents of the city of Hue, accused of sympathizing with the Americans ( – They died for a good cause. – As if for what cause? – For freedom. – I think you”ve been brainwashed, kid. Do you think this is still about anything at all? It”s just a slaughter). The finale features a bloody clash between the Joker”s squad and a ruthless sniper hidden in the ruins of an old factory, who turns out to be a young, pretty girl.
The film was Kubrick”s most complete take on one of the director”s constant topos: war and organized, institutionalized killing. Especially the first, forty-minute part of Full Metal Jacket, which depicts in detail the transformation of young boys into ruthless killing machines, is a unique sequence in the history of cinema, a detailed vivisection of institutionalized, organized violence, in which even the libidinal energy of young soldiers is directed toward killing (soldiers sleep with their rifles in a single field bed, they are also ordered to give their weapons female names). Kubrick depicts the violence as so organized and sanctioned that the killing – the Joker”s killing of a severely wounded sniper to spare her from dying in agony – actually becomes an act of grace, an act of mercy – a display of humanity.
The film”s original score, signed by Abigail Mead, was actually created by Kubrick”s eldest daughter Vivian Kubrick [the author of a short documentary about the making of The Shining, included as bonus material on the DVD edition of the film]. The director again wanted to work with cinematographer John Alcott, his regular collaborator since A Clockwork Orange, but the latter was busy with other projects and had to refuse; while on vacation in Spain in August 1986, he died suddenly of a heart attack. Eventually British cinematographer Douglas Milsome stepped behind the camera. The scenes at the resort on Parris Island proved rather difficult to shoot: in order to emphasize that all of the almost identical-looking, almost zero-shaved, identically dressed privates are equally important, or rather – they are all equally just cannon meat, Kubrick demanded that everyone be visible in the frame with equal focus, which proved difficult to achieve. In the climactic scene with the sniper in the burning ruins of the factory, the shutter on the camera was out of sync with the speed of the film stock, giving a rather surreal effect, as if the flames were crawling onto the film stock.
When the film was practically finished – Kubrick”s characteristic bad luck made itself known again: six months before its premiere on June 23, 1987, Oliver Stone”s Platoon, also dealing with the theme of reckoning with the Vietnam War, though from a different angle, was released in American cinemas. Although this fact no longer affected the production of Full Metal Jacket, it had an impact on the fate of the film on cinema screens: after Stone”s film, a significant part of the audience resented Kubrick”s work, having no desire to see another bleak film about the Vietnam War, and as a result the film was much less commercially successful than Stanley Kubrick and Warner Bros. had expected.
Kubrick was nominated for an Oscar for the film”s screenplay; he ended up nominated again.
Eyes wide shut. Love as a light in the tunnel
Having completed his work on Full Metal Jacket, Kubrick began preparing the screenplay for Aryan Papers, based on the novel Wartime Lies by Louis Begley, about a young boy”s wartime experiences in Holocaust-stricken Poland during World War II. He searched for a long time for suitable locations, including Poland (Kubrick imposed a kind of embargo on Poland in the 1970s, breaking off contacts with Poland after a copy of A Clockwork Orange, borrowed for two weeks, returned four months later in tatters); he finally decided on the Danish city of Arhus and its environs – he decided to make a huge photographic documentation of these areas, so that he could then properly recreate them in England. He chose Joseph Mazzello for the lead role; when the young actor was engaged for the film Jurassic Park – Kubrick personally asked Steven Spielberg not to move Mazzello”s hair.
The abandonment of work on War Lies was again decided by competition; for at the time Steven Spielberg proceeded to work on Schindler”s List. Upon hearing the news, Kubrick decided to put his project on hold to avoid a situation in which the producers would pull out of financing the project (as happened with Napoleon), or the finished film would fail at the box office because audiences, having seen one Holocaust film, would not want to see another (a fate that had befallen Full Metal Jacket a few years earlier). Kubrick”s associates also speak of the doubts Kubrick had about the whole project from the beginning; the director had great doubts that adequately describing a phenomenon as ghastly in its mass scale and technical perfection as the Holocaust was at all within the possibilities of cinematography.
The next project Kubrick began working on was an adaptation of Brian Aldiss” short story Supertoys Last All Summer Long, about the friendship of a boy and an android in a future world. The vision of dehumanized humanity pitted against humanized machines had long been close to Kubrick”s heart (this time the film was hampered by the inadequate sophistication of digital visual effects, according to the director; Kubrick decided to wait to make the film until the technical possibilities allowed him to produce the kind of vision he had planned.
Eventually, the director decided to finish work on a project he had already been working on since the 1960s: an adaptation of a novella by the Viennese writer and psychologist Arthur Schnitzler, Traumnovelle, which tells the story of the temptations and strange events experienced by a young married couple during one unusual night; events that will become a test for their relationship, which will call into question the basic values on which an emotional relationship between two people is based.
Schintzler set the action of his novel in fin de siecle era Vienna, while Kubrick decided to move the action of the film to modern times. In the end, he and co-screenwriter Frederic Raphael set the action in New York at the end of the 20th century. The protagonists of the film are Dr. William Harford (the name is an allusion to the person of the actor who was originally to play the role – Harrison Ford) and his wife Alice (the role of the married couple was played by a pair of actors who were still married at the time, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman). After a lavish party they both attend, under the influence of marijuana, the couple engage in a fierce discussion about their marriage, the role of fidelity in the modern world and lurking temptations. Alice then confesses to her husband that she was once tempted to cheat on him with a handsome naval officer. Shocked by this news, William embarks on an overnight escapade around New York; this escapade will become a test of his fidelity, the strength of their relationship, and his ability to face temptation and danger. Again coincidence will play its role: for only coincidence will stop Harford from getting close to a prostitute, who later turns out to be HIV-positive. The film”s climactic scene was a mysterious, licentious ceremony at a remote mansion that Harford attends, a sort of quasi-religious ritual whose participants hide their faces under elaborate masks. When Harford is unmasked as a stranger by those attending the ceremony, he is saved by a mysterious participant in the orgy, offering herself in his stead; soon after, William, flipping through the newspaper, finds her obituary – the girl died of a drug overdose. Eventually, after an all-night phantasmagorical ramble, Harford finally finds solace – at the side of his beloved wife.
Although Eyes Wide Shut is set in Manhattan, by his custom Kubrick recreated the streets of New York in a British studio (he even went so far as to send collaborators overseas to bring him garbage from Manhattan street garbage cans). Filming eventually lasted 400 shooting days, as a result of which several actors originally chosen by Kubrick had to resign in favor of other commitments and were replaced by other actors; for example, Harvey Keitel, playing millionaire Ziegler, had to return to the States after a while, on the set of another film; he was replaced by well-known director and Kubrick”s friend Sydney Pollack. The film”s title derives from psychoanalytic concepts, numerous tropes of which can be found in the finished work: it implies that the film is in fact an attempt to portray an “inner landscape,” while the various adventures that Harford encounters during his nocturnal escapade are not necessarily real, they may be the product of his subconscious.
After completing work on Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick planned to resume work on an adaptation of Supertoys Last All Summer Long, which he planned to title A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. However, before he could complete work on Eyes Wide Shut – after completing the first edit of the film, four days after the first private screening – he died in his sleep of a heart attack on March 7, 1999, at his home in Harpenden.
The version of the film that finally hit the screens on July 16, 1999 was just the first version. The Warner Bros. label assured that it was also the final version and the editing of the film was completed by the director, but it is not excluded that Kubrick would have continued to work on it, re-editing and correcting it (which had already happened with his previous productions). Some are also of the opinion that the word of Warner Bros representatives, whose interest was to get the film to theaters quickly, is not authoritative, and Kubrick – bowing to pressure from the studio bosses – presented only a working version. The picture was received with rather mixed feelings: for some critics it was just an exuberant erotic fantasy of an elderly man, others saw in the work an intriguing and unusual for the director family theme, a motif of redemption brought by the love of a loved one (it is worth noting that once again in Kubrick”s film a female character brings redemption: from the increasingly serious threats of a mysterious masked company the main character is saved by a young girl, agreeing to sacrifice herself instead of him). Various cultural references hidden in the film have been noted: in order to enter a mysterious ceremony in a desolate villa, Harford must don an ornate cape and mask and give a password – the password is Fidelio, the title of Beethoven”s opera, whose main character is a woman who puts on men”s clothing so that, so masked, she can save her husband from imminent danger. In the United States, the orgy scene has been digitally censored: in order to keep the sexually active characters out of view, they have been obscured by digitally created and inserted figures.
In Kubrick”s oeuvre, in addition to the director”s completed works, one can also find films that, for various reasons, he failed to complete, or more accurately: failed to get them started.
Several dominant themes can be discerned in Kubrick”s films: the belief that man is fundamentally evil; that, in fact, man has little influence over his fate, remaining a toy in the hands of capricious fate; that evil comes from within man, and that the ability to consciously, voluntarily choose evil is the measure of humanity.
Kubrick”s characteristic feature while working on the film was his extreme attention to every detail: he required the actors to strictly follow the guidelines of the script (the exceptions were Sellers and Ermey), he strictly made sure that every detail – the type of lenses and lenses used, the way and strength of the lighting of the set, the gestures and facial expressions of the actors, the music used – matched exactly what he had planned.
In Kubrick”s films, music plays an exceptionally important role: “Stanley Kubrick was among the few directors who treated music as a full-fledged and decisive factor of the form.” The creator of the music for his early films was a friend from his school days, Gerald Fried. They achieved a particularly interesting effect in Paths of Glory, where the soundtrack was dominated by drums. It was the first original score for percussion alone in film history. Beginning with A Space Odyssey, these are mostly quoted or adapted classical (from Handel to Beethoven and Schubert) and avant-garde (Ligeti, Penderecki) works. With such a rich symphonic, contemporary and avant-garde repertoire at my disposal, I don”t really see the point of engaging a composer who may even be excellent, but after all will never match either Mozart or Beethoven,” the director explained his decision. – This procedure also allows experimenting with music at an early stage of editing, sometimes even cutting scenes to music. With the normal way of working [i.e., ordering music from a composer at the last stage of the film”s production – DG], this cannot be done as easily.
Kubrick was married three times, The first two marriages, to You Metz and Ruth Sobotka, ended in divorces after several years. With his third wife, Christiane Harlan, the director survived for 40 years and lived to see two daughters, Anya (1959-2009) and Vivian (born August 5, 1960). (The Kubricks also raised Harlan”s daughter from an earlier relationship, Katharine). His parents raised him in the spirit of the Judaic religion, but he never felt a special need to participate in religious ceremonies.
The director”s reluctance to participate in public life was a well-known fact. The time when he was not working on another project, Kubrick always spent with his family at his Childwickbury Manor estate in Harpenden, Hertfordshire. This fact meant that very few people knew what the director really looked like; many reporters arriving at Harpenden in the hope of conducting an interview were greeted at the gate of the estate in person by Kubrick, who politely informed those arriving that the director was currently on the set of a film – reportedly, none of the reporters ever recognized Kubrick in the greeter. This isolation of the director had its consequences: There were a number of rumors in operation about Kubrick, regarding his behavior toward journalists and fans (according to one of them, Kubrick first shot an arriving fan as punishment for bothering him, then shot him again – this time as punishment for the intruder bleeding on his perfectly manicured lawn), and there was also a large group of people claiming to be the director and thus cheating people, often for considerable sums of money (the film Being Like Stanley Kubrick was about one such scammer). To this day there is also an information – never finally confirmed – that the director suffered from Asperger”s syndrome.
In his youth, Kubrick was passionate about aviation, he even obtained a pilot”s license for single-engine planes and often flew. On one occasion, however, while taking off from an airport in England, he nearly crashed the machine because, as it later turned out, he misaligned the flap configuration. From then on, he tried to fly as infrequently as possible, because he was haunted by the thought that since he – then already quite an experienced pilot – had made such a trivial mistake, professional pilots working for airlines could also make such mistakes and lead to a crash. (The commission investigating the causes of the Madrid plane crash determined that the reason the plane crashed during takeoff, leading to the death of 154 people, was a misalignment of the flap configuration.)
Former collaborators spoke differently about Kubrick; George C. Scott, who resented the director”s choice of unsuccessful, exaggerated scenes featuring him for the film Dr.Strangelove, spoke quite disapprovingly of him. According to Jack Nicholson, Kubrick couldn”t forgive him for the rest of his life for making less money on The Shining than Nicholson did. During the filming of A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell became friends with the director, with whom he passionately played table tennis on the set; it later transpired that the hours spent playing Kubrick deducted McDowell from his salary. McDowell and Kubrick also spent many hours listening on shortwave radio to pilots” conversations with London airport control towers; these conversations triggered the actor”s fear of flying (McDowell recalls the making of the film Blue Thunder, in which he played a helicopter pilot, as a real nightmare). After completing work on A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick broke off contact with McDowell without a word. Many of Kubrick”s actors spoke admiringly of him; although the mental burden and emotional stress caused by working on Eyes Wide Shut was one of the main factors that led to the breakup of Tom Cruise”s marriage to Nicole Kidman, both spoke of the director in superlatives, as did Scatman Crothers, who paid for his work on The Shining with a nervous breakdown.
In addition to chess and photography, Kubrick was also an avid lover of table tennis, and he was also interested in baseball and American soccer – while in Europe, Kubrick had his American friends record National Football League games on television, which he then watched and analyzed for hours in his English home.
Stanley Kubrick was buried in the grounds of his residence in Harpenden.
- Stanley Kubrick
- Stanley Kubrick
- The Secret Jewish History of Stanley Kubrick – The Forward, web.archive.org, 6 grudnia 2020 [dostęp 2021-04-11] [zarchiwizowane z adresu 2020-12-06] .
- Baxter 1997, s. 17.
- Duncan 2003, s. 15.
- name=”Colección Directores de cine”|título=Diccionario de Directores |publicación=Ediciones JC |fecha=1 de septiembre de 1992 |fechaacceso=2 de abril de 2019}}
- a b «Miradas al cine – Espartaco». Miradas.com. Archivado desde el original el 4 de octubre de 2015. Consultado el 20 de septiembre de 2015.
- «Anexo:Premios y nominaciones de Stanley Kubrick» |url= incorrecta con autorreferencia (ayuda). Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre. 19 de febrero de 2015. Consultado el 7 de marzo de 2017.
- a b «Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb – Awards». IMDb (en inglés). Consultado el 20 de septiembre de 2015.
- a b «Kubrick ‘did not deserve’ Oscar for 2001 says FX master Douglas Trumbull». The Guardian (en inglés). 4 de septiembre de 2014. Consultado el 20 de septiembre de 2015.
- Prononciation en anglais américain retranscrite selon la norme API.
- Stanley Kubrick est né au Lying-In Hospital, 302 2d Avenue à Manhattan.
- Кубрик учился в одном классе с певицей Эйди Горме.
- Многие из ранних (1945—1950) фото-работ Кубрика были опубликованы в книге «Драма и Тени» (2005), а также появлялись в качестве дополнительных материалов в специальном DVD-издании фильма «Космическая одиссея 2001 года».