Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick in 1948.
Photograph from the Library of Congress.1

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) has been described as a paradoxical and contradictory figure. Kubrick himself rarely appeared in public yet he still achieved stardom.2 The only time he gave interviews was to publicize his films, and even then it was only to a select few scholars and critics, such as Michael Ciment, Gene D. Phillips, and Alexander Walker.3 James Naremore, author of On Kubrick (2008) claims that most of Kubrick’s published remarks have the feeling of being carefully chosen, editorially polished statements.4 As an accomplished film director, producer, screenwriter, and photographer, Kubrick has frequently been cited as one of the greatest filmmakers in cinematic history. His films are mostly adaptations of novels or short stories, covering a wide range of genres, and are noted for their realism, dark humor, unique cinematography, extensive set designs, and evocative use of music. Kubrick is was also known for his attention to detail, writing in 1960,

“When the director is not his own author, I think it is his duty to be one hundred percent faithful to the author’s meaning and to sacrifice none of it for the sake of climax or effect. This seems a fairly obvious notion, yet how many plays and films have you seen where the experience was exciting and arresting but when it was over you felt there was less there than met the eye? And this is usually due to artificial stimulation of the senses by technique which disregards the inner design of the play. It is here that we see the cult of the director at its worst.”5

Dr. Strangelove was not the first of Kubrick’s films to achieve mainstream success. Kubrick worked on a variety of films across a broad range of genres. He directed historical epic dramas and comedy-dramas, such as Spartacus (1960) and Lolita (1962). He later went on to make the movie adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction epic 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). He was also involved in several other well known films, such as Stephen King’s psychological horror film The Shining (1980) and the British-American war film Full Metal Jacket (1987).

Jeremy Bernstein interviewed Kubrick in 1966, where he discussed everything from Kubrick’s childhood to his films up to that point. Kubrick revealed that Dr. Strangelove was intended to be a black comedy since its inception. Bernstein writes:

“It was the building of the Berlin Wall that shaped Kubrick’s interest in nuclear power and nuclear strategy, and he began to read everything he could get hold of about the bomb. Eventually, he had decided that he had about covered the spectrum, and wasn’t learning anything new. “When you start reading the analyses of nuclear strategy, they seem so thoughtful that you’re lulled into a temporary sense of reassurance,” Kubrick explained. “But as you go deeper into it, and become more involved, you begin to realize that every one of these lines of thought leads to a paradox.” It is this constant element of paradox in all the nuclear strategies and in the conventional attitudes toward them that Kubrick transformed into the principal theme of Dr. Strangelove.” 6

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  1. Stanley Kubrick, Stanley Kubrick, Half-Length Portrait, Seated Holding Camera, 1948, Photograph, 1948, Library of Congress,[]
  2. James Naremore, On Kubrick (London: British Film Institute, 2008), 1.[]
  3. Naremore, On Kubrick, 1-2.[]
  4. Naremore, 2.[]
  5. Stanley Kubrick, “Words and Movies,” The Kubrick Site, 1960,[]
  6. Stanley Kubrick, Stanley Kubrick’s Most Revealing Interview, interview by Jeremy Bernstein, SoundCloud, November 27, 1965,[]