Work Of Stanley Kubrick Film Studies Essay

Stanley Kubrick became an amateur photographer after getting a camera as a gift. He became an associate photographer at Look Magazine after selling an photograph of a newsstand after Franklin Roosevelt. After several years as an photographer he went into moving pictures, directing and producing his first piece entitled ‘ Day of the Flight ‘ in 1950. After this he went on to create two more documentaries entitled ‘ The Flying Padre ‘ and ‘ The Seafarers ‘. Then he started doing feature films starting with Fear and Desire, a film that he later sought out all prints of so that no one could watch them.

“A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later” – Stanley Kubrick

Some of Stanley Kubrick’s films use music especially classical to develop an idea. As with Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra throughout the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Classical music dominates the film and some argue that the music tells the story not the characters’ dialogue. The first and last 20 minutes of the film are consumed by classical music. A Clockwork Orange also effectively uses classical music, the film focuses on Alex Delarge, portrayed by Malcolm McDowell, is a deviant who gets conditioned to become a functioning member of society. The government brainwashes Alex with the “Ludovico treatment” which conditions him to associate horrific crimes with his favorite symphony Beethoven’s Ninth until the final scene where he discovers he is no longer under the treatment’s effect.

Sometimes Kubrick used music ironically like in A Clockwork Orange Alex sings “Singing’ In the Rain” while raping a woman in front of her husband. And his film Dr. Strangelove ends with images of nuclear holocaust are accompanied by Vera Lynn’s version of the WWII song “We’ll Meet Again”. The final scene in Full Metal Jacket has the battle hardened Marines singing the theme to “The Mickey Mouse Club”.

One of his signature shots was “The Glare” a character’s emotional breakdown is shown by a close-up shot of the actor with his head tilted slightly down, but with his eyes looking up usually directly into the camera. Kubrick also employed wide angle shots, character tracking shots, zoom shots, and shots down tall parallel walls.

Entrapment is a theme of Kubrick’s films. The characters almost always succumb to their inner demons or assailants. Alex DeLarge is “rehabilitated” as an ultraviolent thug with the help of the government. Jack Torrance is finally conquered by the overlook hotel. The doomsday device kills everyone. Happy endings are clearly not acceptable in a Kubrickian fable. Visually, the classic corridor shot is the prime indicator of being completely overwhelmed and dwarfed by your surroundings. It’s such a striking technique that communicates so much. 

Man vs. Technology the ultimate battle is to prove our humanity is superior to machinery. Like with the conflict between HAL 9000 and the scientist.. the Ludivico technique in clockwork is again an effort to dehumanize alex by obliterating his primal rage through a highly scientific and experimental technique. Full Metal Jacket was Kubrick’s take on the military turning men into killing machines. The sergeant finds Gomer in the bathroom and screams “What is your malfunction!” as if he were not a human with severe emotional trauma, but a robot.

Kubrick commonly the theme of dehumanization because he was fascinated with the dark side of human nature and not because he thought all humans were basically evil.  Some prime examples of his trend are The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket.  These films explored dark side of the human psyche and the violent nature of human beings. The Shining is about a family that stays at a hotel during the off season to take care of the place.  Jack Nicholson plays the father, Jack.  Staying with Jack at the hotel is his wife and son.  Their son, Danny, has a special psychic abilities which he calls shining.  Jack eventually starts to go insane after spending a few months stuck inside a hotel with his family.  As the film progresses we see Jack continually break down mentally until he finally snaps and tries to kill his family.  The hotel where they stay is haunted and Jack begins to see things and people who aren’t supposed to be there.  These supernatural entities are the ones that push Jack over the edge.  He was already disturbed before he saw any ghosts but it was the ghosts that influenced him to kill his family.  The isolation that Jack felt made him paranoid and he believed he had to kill his family because they were trying to interfere with him and his job as the caretaker of the hotel.  One camera shot in particular displayed Jack’s descent into madness.  It is the glare shot which is a common shot in Kubrick films which tend to show a character’s emotional meltdown by showing a close up of the actor with their head tilted down slightly and their eyes looking up straight into the camera.  In the Shining, the glare shot occurs when Jack is staring out a window and viewing a snow covered ground.  The camera slowly zooms in on Jack who has demented look on his face.

In the first half of Full Metal Jacket, the sergeant, played by R. Lee Ermey, is brutal to the trainees. One trainee in particular gets the brunt of the drill sergeant’s punishments.  Nicked named Private Gomer Pyle, who is played by Vincent D’Onofrio, is overweight and slow which makes him a target of the drill instructor.  The whole point of the drill instructor is to make the trainees capable of killing.  The drill instructor pushes Pyle so hard that Pyle begins to go insane and eventually he shoots the drill instructor and then puts the gun to his head.  The film shows how Private Pyle is systematically conditioned to become a killer.  He loses the innocence that he had before arrived at training camp and becomes a psychotic killer who kills himself. The second half of the film jumps abruptly to Vietnam, following Joker played by Matthew Modinet. The film climaxes in a battle between Joker’s platoon and a sniper hiding in the rubble, who is revealed to be a young girl. She almost kills Joker until his reporter partner shoots and severely injures her. Joker then kills her to put her out of her misery. This film was seen by some as a sad example of dehumanization in film.

Many of Stanley Kubrick’s films were nominated for Academy Awards in various categories, including Best Picture for Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, and Barry Lyndon, and Best Director for 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, and Barry Lyndon (seven overall nominations), and 2001: A Space Odyssey received numerous technical awards.

He would be the first director to use the now oft used Steadicam .He would endlessly researching his topics, and going on to produce documentary style films that were shockingly real and acknowledged by the people who were there, especially with Full Metal Jacket, in which Lee Armey a distinguished military veteran served as technical advisor. Kubrick was notorious for his attention to detail. Reportedly, when working on The Shining he would sometimes film a scene a hundred times. His desire for perfection lead to the delay of some films and others were never made. Like the Napoleon film or the delays in filming Full Metal Jacket. The only film that Kubrick didn’t have full auteur control over was Spartacus

Kubrick , Stanley Full Metal Jacket , 1987 , Warner Bros. Pictures

….. 2001 A Space Odyessey 1968,

…… The Shining, 1980, Warner Bros. Pictures

…… A Clockwork Orange, 1972 Warner Bros. Pictures

…… Dr. Strangelove, 1965 Columbia Pictures

….. Barry Lyndon 1975, Warner Bros. Pictures

Ronson, Jon Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes, 2008 , World of Wonder

Pipolo, Tony. “The Modernist & the Misanthrope: The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick.”. Cineaste Spring 2002: 4-49.

Patterson, David W.. American Music, Fall2004, Vol. 22 Issue 3, p444-474

Ronson, Jon. The Guardian Newspaper Saturday 27 March 2004

Perel, Zivah. Literature Film Quarterly, 2008, Vol. 36 Issue 3, p223-232

Galenson, David W.; Kotin, Joshua. Historical Methods, Winter2010, Vol. 43 Issue 1, p29-44