Few directors were as meticulous as Stanley Kubrick. In all his films, he exhibited an attention to detail that put his works into a whole different degree of film-making. He never backed down from his artistic visions and is widely acclaimed today to be one of the largest influences on cinema. Not only are his films well represented on many top 100 lists, but almost every film he made was in a different genre from the last. Even further to the point, he defined quite a few current genres, breaking all preconceived notions about how they should be filmed. Science fiction was never the same after 2001: A Space Odyssey. Horror can no longer compare to The Shining. Historical epics pale in comparison to Spartacus. Technically speaking, he even went so far as to create a camera that could easily film a room with candlelight being the only light source (as in Barry Lyndon). This week’s two films are yet two more masterpieces made by Stanley Kubrick.
A Clockwork Orange
Length: 136 minutes / 2.26 hours
Another one of Stanley Kubrick’s masterworks, A Clockwork Orange resides in the bottom half of AFI’s top 100 list. Despite its controversy in the amount and severity of violence, this film really needs to show the depravity of the main character in order to prove any sort of point. A common theme for Kubrick films was for classical music to be used for the score. Just think back to the iconic scenes in 2001: A Space Odyssey which used “The Blue Danube” and “Also Sprach Zarathustra”. Well, in A Clockwork Orange, we get an interesting, electronic realization of a few classical pieces, including “The William Tell Overture” and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. In fact, Beethoven ends up being a very large plot device in this film, as it shows just how much of an effect psychological conditioning can have on a man.
All teenagers go through a phase of rebellion, but few go through it with as much violence as Alex (Malcom McDowell). After a home invasion with his gang goes awry, he’s sent to prison where he volunteers to be subjected to some psychological conditioning in the hopes that he can get out sooner, rather than later. And yet, the procedure is not easy to endure, as he is forced to witness all sorts of depraved acts in quick succession while classical music is blared from loudspeakers. At the end of the experiment, the procedure has proven quite effective, as Alex becomes physically ill when he encounters violence of any kind. Unfortunately, back on the outside, his new conditioning works to his detriment, eventually forcing him to attempt suicide.
Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Length: 95 minutes / 1.58 hours
In 1964, the entire world was on the cusp of the Cold War. Everyone had seen what devastation a nuclear weapon could inflict after they had been dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima during World War II. As such, the fear of a worldwide nuclear war was very real and not something to be made light of. And yet, Stanley Kubrick managed to take all our fears and create a fabulous satire of this dire situation. Of course, this task is made easy with the comedic genius of Peter Sellers (who plays three different roles in the film), and some iconic lines like, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.” Along with this film, quite a few films show Kubrick’s ability to show the ridiculous nature of war, including an early work, Paths of Glory, and a work near the end of his career, Full Metal Jacket.
If there’s anything I’ve learned while working for the government, it’s that communication is key. Unfortunately, when General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) thinks that fluoride in the water is actually a Soviet attempt to poison America, he demands that the United States retaliate in the most severe way possible. When he sends some bombers to go nuke Russia off the face of the planet, head military officials meet in an undisclosed location to discuss the ramifications. As it turns out, not all of the bombers can be recalled because one of them has damaged communication equipment. As a result, the USSR has made it clear that if they are nuked, the United States will also be destroyed, due to automatic triggers in the event of a nuclear apocalypse. After all, all’s fair in love and war.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Stanley Kubrick classics