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An Odyssey Into the Film World According to Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick (July 26, 1928 – March 7, 1999) is commonly known as the film director of movies which are regarded as artistic masterpieces: A Clockwork Orange (1971), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Full Metal Jacket (1987), among the other 13 full length feature films and the 3 short films he directed.

No matter what anyone says, Stanley Kubrick's movies are made for everyone. Stanley held a strong belief that film can be experienced in a relatively same way on the subconscious and emotional levels, and shared by people identically as such.

Stanley Kubrick on the set of 2001 A Space Odyssey

Whereas, if one were to investigate the capacity and type of intellect, one would discover different things in different people, and therefore different viewers can draw different conclusions as to what the meaning of the film was.

This inherently universal quality of film Stanley regarded as almost sacred — the movie's meaning is the one that the viewer creates for themselves.

"The essence of dramatic form is to let an idea come over people without it being plainly stated. When you say something directly, it's simply not as potent as it is when you allow people to discover it for themselves."

—Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick

Film historians believe that he is the most important and influential film director who has ever lived. Yet, he is mistakenly known for things that he really wasn't, or at least not in the way that everyone thinks he was.

Perhaps the answer to this dilemma lies in the difference between the mind of an artist and the mind of someone who is not inclined to be one. An artist is capable of creating meaning that may not necessarily go hand in hand with how things happen in reality. 

Perhaps this has created an opportunity to create a contrast between reality and the film - the purpose of which is to illuminate the viewer and show him the subject matter from a unique perspective.

Regarding the meaning of the movies he created, Stanley believed that the best thing you can do in film is to let the viewer come to a conclusion by themselves after viewing the movie, instead of having the movie explicitly state what it is about.

This artist-way of thinking demands different behavior from the creator of art. In this territory, perhaps it is easy to make the common misinterpretation many non-artist people make, for example, that Stanley was misanthropic, treated his actors terribly, was an eccentric, wouldn't drive in a car without a football helmet on, and so forth.

These rumors are probably associated with people who are threatened by the talent of Stanley Kubrick after learning about the experience of working with him from the hundreds of people he worked with such as actors, photographers, people he hired to do research and so on. Now that doesn't sound so misanthropic, does it? Still, sometimes people believe that Stanley Kubrick was a loner. Admittedly so, in one of the interviews Stanley himself stated that he is a loner indeed, but only in reference to his position in the world as a movie director, not in a clinically antisocial way.

In one of the documentaries, he is regarded as the person to whom people came to work with, so he didn't have to "go out to meet people" for this very reason. Moreover, Stanley's movies are considered to be some of the most exceptional films ever made in the history of the cinema, and it only makes sense that to make such films one needs to apply exceptional, or uncommon, methods of operation. 

Michael Herr, who collaborated with Kubrick on making his films and who has also known Kubrick as a friend for nearly twenty years gives another insight about what Stanley was like, in his book titled "Kubrick". On page 58, he provides the reader with an observation of Kubrick by Matthew Modine, the actor who played the character of Joker in Full Metal Jacket: "He's probably the most heartfelt person I ever met. It's hard for him, being from the Bronx with that neighborhood mentality, and he tries to cover it up. Right underneath that veneer is a very loving, conscientious man, who doesn't like pain, who doesn't like to see humans suffering or animals suffering. I was really surprised by the man."Kubrick by Michael HerrKUBRICK by Michael Herr (Grove Press, New York)

With application of basic logic and common sense, and perhaps knowledge of film-making, it shouldn't be too difficult to dispel some of the myths associated with Stanley Kubrick. But, alas, Stanley has already provided an explanation to just about every criticism he has received from film critics and fans alike. For example, in response to the complaint that his films are emotionally cold, Stanley responds: "I ought not to be regarded as a once happy man who has been bitten in the jugular and compelled to assume the misanthropy of a vampire."

The colorful world of Stanley Kubrick

The hallmark qualities of the style of Stanley Kubrick's films include the intentional use of contrasting colors to enhance the visual picture of a scene, well thought-out camera placement, smooth camera movement paths and generally extreme attention to detail in terms of camera movement. The style is certain and specifically designed by the logic of Kubrick artistic thought, which seems to have a strong appetite for generating striking images that make an impression with the intensity of a nuclear explosion.

One of the particular visual features of a Stanley Kubrick movie is the use of primary and secondary colors such as red, blue, green and yellow to describe certain objects, which also affects the perceived visual quality of his films. The beginning of the intentional use of color composition in Stanley Kubrick films can be traced back to his earlier film called Barry Lyndon, which is probably when the director became aware of what combinations of color can do to his film in terms of creating a particular visual atmosphere.

With these bright colors, it seems as if Stanley mocks reality itself by making things appear toy-like and slightly surrealistic. One example of this is the use of the oatmeal container whose brand colors are red and blue, a recurring color theme in the film Eyes Wide Shut. Stanley would sometimes say that he likes his films to be partially surrealistic. 

This aspect can be easily recognized if one takes in consideration the colorful space suits the astronauts David Bowman and Frank Poole use in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The subject matter of space travel and evolution of the human mind is serious, but the playful artistic colors of red, blue and yellow create an uneasy, "weird" atmosphere, as if you are dreaming about the cosmonauts in space, and not watching a serious documentary on the subject, even though the movie touches on some of the most philosophically serious subjects ever devised by the human mind.

Stanley Kubrick on the set of 2001 A Space Odyssey

Photo courtesy of Dmitri Kasterine (Dmitri Kasterine's website)

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