Analysis Of Kubrick As Auteur

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1-        Stanley Kubrick is a name synonymous with bizarre, unnerving and controversial cinema. He is also known as one of the greatest modern directors having three of his films within the AFI's top fifty. So why is a figure so far out on the edge of society able to receive such critical acclaim? Pure talent and having a specific individual style that was constantly shifting to be more innovative and fresh. All of his films are raw and blunt forcing you to think about the things you are seeing as well as hearing. Kubrick's style is drawn out and deliberate, with a need for perfection comparative to the rumors about Hitchcock and his need for complete control. At no time does it seem like something just happens in a Kubrick film it appears rather that every detail was meticulously cared for and planed. Yet it is all done in a world that ends up looking stunningly real to the viewer. Perhaps this is due to his need for perfection, for example when making "The Shining" the ratio of film shot to that which was actually used was 120:1, meaning that for his two hour film Kubrick shot two hundred and forty hours worth of footage. But most critics agree it is Kubrick's use of the camera and characters within their surroundings that makes his images so true. This ability to capture emotion and tone of a scene so powerfully stems back to Kubrick's early years as a still photographer for the magazine LOOK. Reflections of this background are shown in scenes such as the opening of "A Clockwork Orange" in which we see a close shot of Alex's face for almost twenty seconds before the camera starts to move. The movement however is only a dolly back keeping the integrity of the photographic image just deepening its focus. This style is seen throughout Kubrick's work and at times gives some of his scene a tableaux aspect to them. All this combined with many other devices and stylistic choices create the images we associate with Stanley Kubrick.         
2-        The themes of Kubrick's films and the genres the fit into span a broad array, ranging from grand scale Hollywood gladiator films to classic horror and strange art films with cult followings. But as different as all his films may seem there are common threads, which run through every film, connecting it to the others. There are three main ideas that Kubrick felt needed to be expressed throughout his work. These themes are part of what sets Kubrick away from the crowd as an individual. They are the ideas of: 1.Social criticism particularly looking at war, violence and sex 2.The weakness of man and the fragility of the mind, and 3.The telling of stories in which the main characters are anti-heroes. These three questions and ideals are seen to some extent within all of Kubrick's films. Kubrick himself seemed to be dedicated to tying his films together as well though a bit more subliminally, perhaps as a game. This is seen near the beginning of "Lolita" when Peter Sellers gets up from under a drop cloth and is questioned about his identity responding, "No, I'm Spartacus"¦have you come to free the slaves or something." Obviously in reference to Spartacus the movie Kubrick did directly before it. Also in "A Clockwork Orange" when Alex is in the record shop flirting with the girls there is a copy of the "2001" soundtrack for sale. "2001" being the movie made directly before "A Clockwork Orange." I'm sure there are other instances like this but I have been unable to find any as of yet. An interesting fact about the themes in Kubrick's film is that almost all of them have been based on novels. So he chose his stories and adapted them to film rather than having them written for him. But all of his choices share many of the same characteristics. .
        The most prevalent theme running throughout Kubrick's body of work is his pessimistic social critique. Each of the films he chose to do deals with either the evils of a single person or society at large. Kubrick than exaggerates the faults to point where they become obvious and monstrous. One of the three main topics that Kubrick addresses is war, in either the normal representation such as Vietnam in "Full Metal Jacket" or in a more subtle and small scale way such as the war between a man and his mind shown in "Lolita" and "The Shining." War is used in someway throughout all of Kubrick's films weather it is blatant or more of a suggestion. Though the reasons are unclear war is an act that Kubrick obviously opposed very strongly. He shows it to us in a negative light posing questions that many never wanted to ask. Take the entire plot of "Dr. Strangelove" as an example of this. We are shown a situation that at the height of the cold war was very possible and ended up destroying the world. The subject matter may have been posed as dark comedy to allow us to digest it but the message is still there. Violence is another issue that is used in most of Kubrick's films. There is not one Kubrick film in which a death does not occur. Kubrick though always including violence in his films shows us both sides of the spectrum. We are shown both the hidden crime of passion in "Lolita" in which there is no depicted violence only a hole in a painting and a thump, and the extreme of the "ultra-violence" that Alex and his droogs enjoy so much in "A Clockwork Orange." Violence is a theme that rather than shown as wrong by Kubrick is depicted as an inescapable fact that we all must come to terms with no matter how awful it is. Which brings us to sex, a topic that Kubrick has pushed boundaries on since his beginnings. Kubrick has challenged censors with numerous films, from the homosexual overtones in the bath scene between Tony Curtis and Laurence Olivier in "Spartacus," which was eventually cut, to the accusations that "A Clockwork Orange" is nothing more than simple pornography his films have been the topic of debate. Sex is a tool that Kubrick uses to show us the evils of lust-based relations. A point that may relate to the reason he was divorced twice after less than four years of marriage each time.
        The two less blatant recurring ideas in Kubrick's films are that of mans weakness, and the lack of heroes, and in fact use of anti-heroes as main characters. The weakness of man is shown not only through his ability to be controlled but also the fragility of the mind. Kubrick shows that man can be controlled in two ways either by the will of others and, breaking of the spirit or by giving in to what he knows is wrong. In "Full Metal Jacket" we are shown, through the boot camp, the way in which a man can be broken and molded back into something they never would have been. Kubrick shows us that any man can be over come, as long you know how to go about it. Weakness of this sort is also depicted in "Dr. Strangelove" in the madness of General Ripper whose mind was broken by a flooding of nationalistic anti-communist propaganda. Another strong example of a weak mind is Jack from "The Shining" who is slow driven crazy by some unseen force and made into a monster. The use of the anti-hero however is prevalent in all of Kubrick's films. The only possible exception to this is "2001" which has no real hero but Bowman isn't really an anti-hero either. By doing this Kubrick is forcing us to identify with the bad guy and feel for him or hate him depending on your own ideals. The use of this device relates back to a quote from Kubrick in which he states, "I would not think of quarreling with your interpretation nor offering any other, as I have found it always the best policy to allow the film to speak for itself." By this he will give no real definition of what we are supposed to fell you must just watch the film and either sympathize with the character or hate him.
3-        Every film director has a certain set of tools and shots or compositions that they use repeatedly in different films, its what sets them apart from others. Kubrick has a very unique and innovative way of shooting his films that makes them recognizable as his own. He uses all the possible parameters of film to enhance and enrich his films. The stylistic device that is most recognizably Kubrick is the use of very long takes, many of which act as inflated establishing shots. One such scene is the opening of "The Shining" in which we watch a car slowly crawl up a hill for what seems like an endless amount of screen time. During this shot the camera is positioned high above the car making it look tiny among the expanse of mountains and valleys surrounding it. Which brings us to another device of Kubrick's, the use of very long shots in which you see the entire backdrop of the scene. Getting back to the scene from "The Shining" the combination of these two devices together sets the scene for the film instilling in us a sense of desolation and loneliness, which exactly what the devices are used for.
        The most blatant of Kubrick's stylistic devices is that of using long takes. Throughout all of his films he rarely has a take that lasts less than a minute unless it is a close-up used for dramatic effect. The use of cross cutting and quick paced analytic editing is almost nonexistent in Kubrick's body of work. Instead he opts to use long drawn out sequences in which the camera is either completely still, or closely following some sort of action. The film "Lolita" is put together not unlike the book it is based on showing long dialog filled scenes which come to a definite close before the start of the next scene. The use of this technique creates a greater sense of reality and trueness in his films then is seen in many others. Adding to this effect is the fact that Kubrick often chooses to couple this act of editing with the use of long shots. Which gives us a large area to view and the ability to see everything that is going on in a scene, not unlike being there. The greatest single example of Kubrick's use of these two principals is the boardroom scene in "2001." Scenes such as this one are exaggerated caricatures of Kubrick's normal flowing camera style however. Once again something that is combined with the ideas of long takes and long shots is the use of the moving camera. Kubrick was one of the innovators in the uses of the moving camera, shooting many of his films almost entirely with a hand held camera in near constant motion, adding the final layer to Kubrick's ability to create a sense of realism and closeness to the characters. He was the first director to use the "steady cam" hand held tracking shot, which has become a standard in the shooting of films. The first instance of this was in "The Shining" during the long follow shots in the hallways, as well as in almost every scene containing a fair amount of action. Before this is was near impossible to get the kind of camera motion and angling that was achieved. Kubrick's deliberate use of music is another thing that defines him as a director. He almost always uses previously composed music, such as The Blue Danube in "2001: A Space Odyssey" and Beethoven's 9th Symphony for "A Clockwork Orange" rather than having an original score written. Also near fifty percent of the time he used music that was juxtaposed with the scene and created a sense of irony rather than setting a mood. A good example of this effect is the opening sequence of "Dr. Strangelove" in which we see a B-52 bomber being refueled over the happily romantic tune of Try a Little Tenderness. A less specific example is his constant use of classical pieces of music placed over scenes of violence and terror as we see throughout both "A Clockwork Orange" and "The Shining."
        Two of the other constant and recurring devices in the films of Kubrick are the framing of shots in very deliberate ways to convey a feeling or message, and the use of contrast within both the light and shadow as well as color of the scene and the actual images within the scene. Kubrick was at one time a still photographer, which adds to his ability to frame a scene in such a way that with out words we can gain knowledge about the story. Many times he uses this effect to create metaphors for other issues within the film or a sense of irony. The most recognizable instance of this effect is the image we are shown in "The Shining" when we see Jack's face framed on either side by jagged wood through the bathroom door. Another good example of this is the scene in "A Clockwork Orange" near the beginning when Alex and the droogs beat the drunken bum. Framed on both sides by the walls of the tunnel, seen only in silhouette standing tall above the man they are given a power and twisted sense of authority. Once again both of these image are one in which the action pauses and the screen shows a sort of snapshot which displays the mood of the film at that time. Contrast is a tool that Kubrick uses continuously; there is always some sort of juxtaposition within the placement of items and people within the scene. You must read between the lines to truly understand the entirety of the film. Just like the hidden references to previous films discussed before Kubrick also puts hidden references to the films message and storyline. In "Dr. Strangelove" the military base the General Ripper takes over is littered with signs boasting "Peace is our Profession" many of which are seen clearly in the gun fight at the base. Posing the public message of the military against what they are really conducting without the public's knowledge. "Dr. Strangelove" also holds an example of Kubrick play with light in many of the scenes in the war room the men sitting at the table are the only things that are lit. Showing the outsiders being left in the dark as to what is happening and only those in the military and politics knowing what is happening and what must be done.

4-        Stanley Kubrick worked in the film industry for near fifty years. He made sixteen films many of which are thought of as some of the best films ever made and nearly all of which are known among film circles. His films cover many genres and styles, but he was always the same artistic perfectionist director. Kubrick made films that have shocked the world and gained unsurpassed cult followings. He has become a mainstream representation of counter-culture film and the example of "edgy" cinema. Kubrick is a man whose vision and desire to always try something new changed the face of film for the better. He faced many challenges both from the industry and society during his career but always persevered and found new ways to shock his audience. Right up until just before the year he was famous for creating Kubrick brought us films al of which have become classics. Stanley Kubrick is in his very essence and definition an auteur.

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