An Ode to Kubrick

Why is it, when you ask your film buff friends about movies and directors and “the greats”, Stanley Kubrick is almost always one of the first mentioned? On the one hand, art is subjective and one person’s “great” can be another person’s “is this still not finished? How long is this movie?” On the other, I hope the above video can demonstrate some of what makes Kubrick such a massive influence in the history of the moving image, just based on his visuals and composition alone.

“His films are so long” Some might tell you. But this isn’t really the case. Avengers Endgame, a big budget action movie, is just under three hours. Kubrick’s longest film, a chronicle of the life of the eponymous 18th Century opportunist Barry Lyndon, is three hours and seven minutes. 2001: A Space Odyssey clocks in at just under two hours and a half.

“But his films are emotionless”, some will tell you. I agree, to an extent, but I don’t necessarily think this has to be a negative, and it doesn’t apply to all of his films. Sure, 2001 is cold and distant, A Clockwork Orange is warped and shameless. The Shining is just straight up horrifying. But each one serves its purpose. 2001 is about the cold, the emotionlessness of space and the potential dangers of AI with its incapacity to feel. A Clockwork Orange is, well…. It’s A Clockwork Orange, based off of the chaotic, dystopian nightmare written by Manchester’s own Anthony Burgess. I think Full Metal Jacket packs an intense emotional punch, and Dr. Strangelove is packed full of wit and humour. Give the latter a chance if you’re interested in Stanley Kubrick or just film as a whole, or Barry Lyndon if you want his most “Kubrickian” film and don’t mind the length.

No two films of his are the same, and he was always striving for perfection. He was notoriously difficult to work with (at least if you ask Shelley Duvall) as a result, but created some of the finest movies the industry has ever produced. Every filmmaker you know today was somehow influenced by Stanley Kubrick, even if unintentionally, and there is a reason he was so recognised for his craft. They say it takes a person 10,000 hours to master a craft, and like any great artist, these masters deserve to be examined. This isn’t to say you have to like such works, art is entirely what you take away from it. If you like the movies or don’t, you will have an experience that only someone of that calibre can provide for you.

Films used:
Fear & Desire [1953]
Killer’s Kiss [1955]
The Killing [1956]
Paths of Glory [1957]
Spartacus [1960]
Lolita [1962]
Dr. Strangelove [1964]
2001: A Space Odyssey [1968]
A Clockwork Orange [1971]
Barry Lyndon [1975]
The Shining [1980]
Full Metal Jacket [1987]
Eyes Wide Shut [1999]