Understanding: KUBRICK

THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING STANLEY KUBRICK
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Born in New York in 1928, Stanley Kubrick was beyond a cinematic genius. A chess whiz by the age of 17 as well as a master photographer, I, without hesitation, consider Kubrick to be one of the most intelligent men to ever live. His films have created a lasting impact on society and with each viewing, gives you a brand new outlook on life, the self, and the universe. However, to fully appreciate and understand the depths of a film, I think it's incredibly important to understand the filmmaker who has put together the picture. Stanley was a Freudian and used psychology through films to analyze human nature in order to have a better understanding of the way we function as a species. I've compiled 5 of Stanley's films to watch in this order, that I think are essential to fully understanding Kubrick as a man and a filmmaker. 

 

1) 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)

I think 2001 is the perfect jumping off point into Kubrick. Besides being known as one of the most revolutionary films of all time, with some of the most insane visuals ever, it's story and deeper subtext is what gives us the most insight into Kubrick and into ourselves. This film can be set up into 3 different evolutionary stages: Ape - Man - Beyond. (I use beyond for lack of a better term. Watch the film and you'll see why) Kubrick stated in an interview that "Man is in a really unstable condition." We evolved from ape to man, but now as human's we are still in need for much more. We're in need for a transformation into that next stage that is in the "Beyond." We look to religion, science, and more to find these answers, yet to no avail. 2001 touches on all of three of these evolutionary stages and in his other films you'll see how he continues to analyze these stages further in more relatable instances.

I think 2001 is the perfect jumping off point into Kubrick. Besides being known as one of the most revolutionary films of all time, with some of the most insane visuals ever, it's story and deeper subtext is what gives us the most insight into Kubrick and into ourselves. This film can be set up into 3 different evolutionary stages: Ape - Man - Beyond. (I use beyond for lack of a better term. Watch the film and you'll see why) Kubrick stated in an interview that "Man is in a really unstable condition." We evolved from ape to man, but now as human's we are still in need for much more. We're in need for a transformation into that next stage that is in the "Beyond." We look to religion, science, and more to find these answers, yet to no avail. 2001 touches on all of three of these evolutionary stages and in his other films you'll see how he continues to analyze these stages further in more relatable instances.

2) DR. STRANGELOVE: or HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964)

In the early 60's after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kubrick became absolutely obsessed with the idea of a nuclear holocaust. Combined with his obsession with the analysis of human behavior, we get Dr. Strangelove. This film was originally supposed to be a thriller about the wrong person who pressed the wrong button, yet Kubrick found that the best way to analyse this was through satire and comedy. Dr. Strangelove is about an army general gone mad who sends in nuclear missiles to Russia after believing that the "Red Coats" were infiltrating America. Kubrick with this film, begins analyzing Man "stage" in the Ape-Man-Beyond stage that he laid out for us in 2001. As true and relevant as this film rang in 1964, as history repeats itself, it continues to remain just as relevant today.

In the early 60's after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kubrick became absolutely obsessed with the idea of a nuclear holocaust. Combined with his obsession with the analysis of human behavior, we get Dr. Strangelove. This film was originally supposed to be a thriller about the wrong person who pressed the wrong button, yet Kubrick found that the best way to analyse this was through satire and comedy. Dr. Strangelove is about an army general gone mad who sends in nuclear missiles to Russia after believing that the "Red Coats" were infiltrating America. Kubrick with this film, begins analyzing Man "stage" in the Ape-Man-Beyond stage that he laid out for us in 2001. As true and relevant as this film rang in 1964, as history repeats itself, it continues to remain just as relevant today.

3) FULL METAL JACKET (1987)

Diving further into the study of human nature, Kubrick takes the flip side of Dr. Strangelove and analyzes and portrays for us the psychological effects of those actually in the war. Full Metal Jacket starts off in basic training boot camp and does what no other war film does, show us what happens before you even get to war. Psychological games that are imposed upon these recruits by the general leave them with feeling of lack of self worth, anxiety, and overall mind-control. In the second half of the film, we're taken to Vietnam where we see just how these psychological games have gone on to shape the perception of all the recruits who are now fighting for our "freedom."

Diving further into the study of human nature, Kubrick takes the flip side of Dr. Strangelove and analyzes and portrays for us the psychological effects of those actually in the war. Full Metal Jacket starts off in basic training boot camp and does what no other war film does, show us what happens before you even get to war. Psychological games that are imposed upon these recruits by the general leave them with feeling of lack of self worth, anxiety, and overall mind-control. In the second half of the film, we're taken to Vietnam where we see just how these psychological games have gone on to shape the perception of all the recruits who are now fighting for our "freedom."

4) THE SHINING (1980)

Next up is The Shining. At this point in Stanley's career, he had 2001, Lolita, Dr Strangelove, Barry Lyndon, and more under his belt and with each one, he had created a timeless masterpiece. Frankly, Stanley got bored. Enter The Shining. The Shining is constructed like a very detailed maze or puzzle, with each frame of each scene providing the viewer with clues to reach their own conclusion. To me, The Shining is one of the greatest achievements and contributions to the art of cinema. This film is like an onion, in that there are so many layers and with each one that is skinned, another layer is there waiting for you to peel apart. Kubrick touches on a variety topics like the genocide of the Native Americans, the Holocaust, and the oh so beloved Moon Landing conspiracy Kubrick was caught in the middle. Many people believe that The Shining is actually Kubrick's confession to faking the moon landing. Now that you've gone through and seen some of Stanley's other works and you begin to udnerstand him as a man, it makes it very easy to view The Shining as a bit of a parallel to his own life.

Next up is The Shining. At this point in Stanley's career, he had 2001, Lolita, Dr Strangelove, Barry Lyndon, and more under his belt and with each one, he had created a timeless masterpiece. Frankly, Stanley got bored. Enter The Shining. The Shining is constructed like a very detailed maze or puzzle, with each frame of each scene providing the viewer with clues to reach their own conclusion. To me, The Shining is one of the greatest achievements and contributions to the art of cinema. This film is like an onion, in that there are so many layers and with each one that is skinned, another layer is there waiting for you to peel apart. Kubrick touches on a variety topics like the genocide of the Native Americans, the Holocaust, and the oh so beloved Moon Landing conspiracy Kubrick was caught in the middle. Many people believe that The Shining is actually Kubrick's confession to faking the moon landing. Now that you've gone through and seen some of Stanley's other works and you begin to udnerstand him as a man, it makes it very easy to view The Shining as a bit of a parallel to his own life.

5) EYES WIDE SHUT (1999)

Last, but not least. Kubrick's last film Eyes Wide Shut was released a few months after his passing. Again, conspiracists got everything they wanted with this one. A story about a man who stumbles into a secret cult-like society and has his world shook, this film is almost as blatant as Kubrick ever got. Not blatant in the sense that these secret societies truly exist, but blatant in it's message. Kubrick was never one to shy away from truly expressing what was weighing on him, and I think Eyes Wide Shut, perhaps more than any of his other films, did this in the most obvious manner by analyzing human nature and the duality of man in an incredibly moving and intense picture that plays out like a nightmarish opera.

Last, but not least. Kubrick's last film Eyes Wide Shut was released a few months after his passing. Again, conspiracists got everything they wanted with this one. A story about a man who stumbles into a secret cult-like society and has his world shook, this film is almost as blatant as Kubrick ever got. Not blatant in the sense that these secret societies truly exist, but blatant in it's message. Kubrick was never one to shy away from truly expressing what was weighing on him, and I think Eyes Wide Shut, perhaps more than any of his other films, did this in the most obvious manner by analyzing human nature and the duality of man in an incredibly moving and intense picture that plays out like a nightmarish opera.

- @youngxgosling