Stanley Kubrick (July 26, 1928 – March 7, 1999) was an American film director, writer, producer, and photographer who lived in England during most of the last four decades of his career. Kubrick was noted for the scrupulous care with which he chose his subjects, his slow method of working, the variety of genres he worked in, his technical perfectionism, and his reclusiveness about his films and personal life. He worked far beyond the confines of the Hollywood system, maintaining almost complete artistic control and making movies according to his own whims and time constraints, but with the rare advantage of big-studio financial support for all his endeavors. Although he was nominated for an Academy Award as a screenwriter and director on several occasions, his only personal win was for the special effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Kubrick is widely acknowledged as one of the most accomplished, innovative, and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema. He directed a number of highly acclaimed and often controversial films that have often been perceived as a reflection of his obsessive and perfectionist nature. His films are characterized by a formal visual style and meticulous attention to detail—his later films often have elements of surrealism and expressionism that eschews structured linear narrative. While often viewed as expressing an ironic pessimism, a few critics feel his films contain a cautious optimism when viewed more carefully. Even though all of his films, apart from the first two, were adapted from novels or short stories, his works are noted as some of the "most original, provocative, and visionary motion pictures ever made".Early life
Stanley Kubrick was born on July 26, 1928 at the Lying-In Hospital in Manhattan, New York, the first of two children born to Jacques Leonard Kubrick (1901–85) and his wife Gertrude (née Perveler; 1903–85). His sister, Barbara, was born in 1934. Jacques Kubrick, whose parents and paternal grandparents were Jewish of Austrian, Romanian and Polish origin, was a doctor. At Stanley's birth, the Kubricks lived in an apartment at 2160 Clinton Avenue in The Bronx.
Kubrick's father taught him chess at age twelve, and the game remained a lifelong obsession. He also bought his son a Graflex camera when he was thirteen, triggering a fascination with still photography. As a teenager, Kubrick was interested in jazz, and briefly attempted a career as a drummer.
Kubrick attended William Howard Taft High School from 1941–45. He was a poor student, with a meager 67 grade average. He graduated from high school in 1945, but his poor grades, combined with the demand for college admissions from soldiers returning from the Second World War, eliminated any hopes of higher education. Later in life, Kubrick spoke disdainfully of his education and of education in general, maintaining that nothing about school interested him. His parents sent him to live with relatives for a year in Los Angeles in the hopes that it would help his academic growth.
While still in high school, he was chosen as an official school photographer for a year. In 1946, since he wasn't able to gain admission to day session classes at colleges, he briefly attended evening classes at the City College of New York (CCNY) and then left. Eventually, he sought jobs as a freelance photographer, and by graduation, he had sold a photographic series to Look magazine. Kubrick supplemented his income by playing chess "for quarters" in Washington Square Park and various Manhattan chess clubs. He became an apprentice photographer for Look in 1946, and later a full-time staff photographer. (Many early [1945–50] photographs by Kubrick have been published in the book Drama and Shadows [2005, Phaidon Press] and also appear as a special feature on the 2007 Special Edition DVD of 2001: A Space Odyssey.)
During his Look magazine years, Kubrick married Toba Metz (b. 1930) on May 29, 1948. They lived in Greenwich Village, eventually divorcing in 1951. During this time, Kubrick began frequenting film screenings at the Museum of Modern Art and the cinemas of New York City. He was particularly inspired by the complex, fluid camerawork of director Max Ophüls, whose films influenced Kubrick's later visual style.
Film career and later life
In 1951, Kubrick's friend Alex Singer persuaded him to start making short documentaries for The March of Time, a provider of newsreels to movie theatres. Kubrick agreed, and shot the independently financed Day of the Fight in 1951. The film notably employed a reverse tracking shot, which would become one of Kubrick's signature camera movements. Although its distributor went out of business that year, Kubrick has been said to have sold Day of the Fight to RKO Pictures for a profit of $100, although Kubrick himself said he lost $100 in Jeremy Bernstein, Interview With Stanley Kubrick in 1966. Inspired by this early success, Kubrick quit his job at Look magazine and began working on his second short documentary, Flying Padre (1951), funded by RKO. A third short film, The Seafarers (1953) was filmed just after his first feature Fear and Desire (see below) in order to recoup costs. It was a 30-minute promotional film for the Seafarers' International Union and was Kubrick's first color film. These three films constitute Kubrick's only surviving work in the documentary genre. It is believed, however, that he was involved in other shorts, which have been lost—most notably World Assembly of Youth (1952). He also served as second unit director on an episode of the Omnibus television program about the life of Abraham Lincoln. None of these shorts has ever been officially released, though they have been widely bootlegged, and clips are used in the documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures. In addition, Day of the Fight and Flying Padre have been shown on TCM.
1950s: Fear and Desire, Killer's Kiss, The Killing and Paths of Glory
Kubrick moved to narrative feature films with Fear and Desire (1953), the story of a team of soldiers caught behind enemy lines in a fictional war. While wracked with anxiety about how they will escape, they stumble across a woman whom they capture for fear of her reporting them. One of the soldiers begins to fall in love with her, but shoots her when she tries to escape. He then abandons the troop. Another soldier becomes unsatisfied with a simple escape down the river and persuades the remaining soldiers to engage in a scheme to kill a general in a surprise attack at a nearby base.
Kubrick and his then-wife, Toba Metz, were the only crew on the film, which was written by Kubrick's friend Howard Sackler, who later became a successful playwright. Fear and Desire garnered respectable reviews but was a commercial failure. Later in life, Kubrick was embarrassed by the film, which he dismissed as an amateur effort. He refused to allow Fear and Desire to be shown at retrospectives and public screenings and did everything possible to keep it out of circulation. At least one copy remained in the archives of the film printing company, and the film subsequently surfaced in bootleg copies.
Kubrick's marriage to Toba Metz ended during the making of Fear and Desire. He met his second wife, Austrian-born dancer and theatrical designer Ruth Sobotka, in 1952. They lived together in New York's East Village from 1952 until their marriage on January 15, 1955. They moved to Hollywood that summer. Sobotka, who made a cameo appearance in Kubrick's next film, Killer's Kiss (1955), also served as art director on The Killing (1956). Like Fear and Desire, Killer's Kiss is a short feature film, with a running time of slightly more than an hour. It met with limited commercial and critical success. The film is about a young heavyweight boxer at the end of his career who gets involved in a love triangle in which his rival is involved with organized crime. Both Fear and Desire and Killer's Kiss were privately funded by Kubrick's family and friends.
Alex Singer introduced Kubrick to a young producer named James B. Harris, and the two became close friends. Their business partnership, Harris-Kubrick Productions, would finance Kubrick's next three films. The two bought the rights to the Lionel White novel Clean Break, which Kubrick and co-screenwriter Jim Thompson turned into The Killing. The story is about a meticulously planned racetrack robbery gone wrong after the mobsters get away with the money. (The film title may refer either to the robbery or the subsequent murder of a group of mobsters by a jealous boyfriend). Starring Sterling Hayden, The Killing was Kubrick's first full-length feature film shot with a professional cast and crew. As does the novel's narration, the story in the film is told out of sequence in a non-linear narrative as a consequence of retelling the events of the same day (and sometimes the same events) from the perspective of different characters. (This is not the same as using successive multiple in-world flashbacks as Citizen Kane does.) While this technique was highly unusual for contemporary 1950s American cinema, it was imitated nearly 40 years later in Reservoir Dogs by director Quentin Tarantino who has acknowledged Kubrick's film as a major influence, and critics have noticed the similarity in plot structure. In many ways, The Killing followed the conventions of film noir, both in its plotting and cinematography style. That kind of crime caper film had peaked in the 1940s; but today, many regard this film as one of the best of the noir genre. While it was not a financial success, it received good reviews.
The widespread admiration for The Killing brought Harris-Kubrick Productions to the attention of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The studio offered them its massive collection of copyrighted stories from which to choose their next project. During this time, Kubrick also collaborated with Calder Willingham on an adaptation of the Austrian novel The Burning Secret. Although Kubrick was enthusiastic about the project, it was eventually shelved.
Kubrick's next film Paths of Glory was set during World War I and based on Humphrey Cobb's 1935 antiwar novel of the same name. It follows a French army unit ordered on an impossible mission by their superiors. As a result of the mission's failure, three innocent soldiers are charged with cowardice and sentenced to death, allegedly as an example to the troops, but actually serving as scapegoats for the failings of their commanders. Kirk Douglas was cast as Colonel Dax, a humanitarian officer who tries to prevent the soldiers' execution. Douglas was instrumental in securing financing for the ambitious production. The film was not a significant commercial success, but it was critically acclaimed and widely admired within the industry, establishing Kubrick as a major up-and-coming young filmmaker. Critics over the years have praised the film's unsentimental, spare, and unvarnished combat scenes and its raw, black-and-white cinematography. Steven Spielberg has named this one of his favorite Kubrick films.
During the production of Paths of Glory in Munich, Kubrick met and romanced young German actress Christiane Harlan (credited by her stage name, "Susanne Christian"), who played the only female speaking part in the film. Kubrick divorced his second wife, Ruth Sobotka, in 1957. Christiane Susanne Harlan (b. 1932 in Germany) belonged to a theatrical family and had trained as an actress. She and Kubrick married in 1958 and remained together until his death in 1999. During her marriage to Kubrick, Christiane concentrated on her career as a painter. In addition to raising Christiane's young daughter Katharina (b. 1953) from her first marriage to the late German actor Werner Bruhns (d. 1977), the couple had two daughters, Anya (1959–2009) and Vivian (b. 1960). Christiane's brother Jan Harlan was Kubrick's executive producer from 1975 onward.
1960s: Spartacus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey
Upon his return to the United States, Kubrick worked for six months on the Marlon Brando vehicle One-Eyed Jacks (1961). The two clashed over a number of casting decisions, and Brando eventually fired him and decided to direct the picture himself. Kubrick worked on a number of unproduced screenplays, including Lunatic at Large, which Kubrick intended to develop into a movie, until Kirk Douglas asked him to take over Douglas' epic production Spartacus (1960) from Anthony Mann, who had been fired by the studio two weeks into shooting.
Based upon the true story of a doomed uprising of Roman slaves, Spartacus was a difficult production. Creative differences arose between Kubrick and Douglas, and the two reportedly had a stormy working relationship. Frustrated by his lack of creative control, Kubrick later largely disowned the film, which further angered Douglas. The friendship the two men had formed on Paths of Glory was destroyed by the experience of making the film. Years later, Douglas referred to Kubrick as "a talented shit."
Despite the on-set troubles, Spartacus was a critical and commercial success and established Kubrick as a major director. However, its embattled production convinced Kubrick to find ways of working with Hollywood financing while remaining independent of its production system, which he called "film by fiat, film by frenzy."
Spartacus is the only Stanley Kubrick film in which Kubrick had no hand in the screenplay, no final cut, no producing credit, or any say in the casting. It was largely Kirk Douglas' project.
Spartacus would go on to win 4 Oscars with one going to Peter Ustinov, for his turn as the slave dealer Batiatus, the only actor to win one under Kubrick's direction.
In 1962, Kubrick moved to England to film Lolita, and he would live there for the rest of his life. The original motivation was to film Lolita in a country with laxer censorship laws. However, Kubrick had to remain in England to film Dr. Strangelove since Peter Sellers was not permitted to leave England at the time as he was involved in divorce proceedings, and the filming of 2001: A Space Odyssey required the large capacity of the sound stages of Shepperton Studios, which were not available in America. It was after filming the first two of these films in England and in the early planning stages of 2001 that Kubrick decided to settle in England permanently.
Lolita was Kubrick's first film to generate major controversy. The book, by Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov, dealt with an affair between a middle-aged man named Humbert Humbert (James Mason) and his twelve-year-old stepdaughter, and was already notorious as an "obscene" novel and a cause célèbre when Kubrick embarked on the project. The difficult subject matter was mocked in the film's famous tagline, "How did they ever make a film of Lolita?" Kubrick originally engaged Nabokov to adapt his own novel for the screen. The writer first produced a 400-page screenplay, which he then reduced to 200. The final screenplay was written by Kubrick himself, and Nabokov himself estimated that only 20% of his work made it into the film. Nabokov's original draft was later published under the title Lolita: A Screenplay.
Prior to its release, Kubrick realized that to get a Production Code seal, the screenplay would have to downplay the book's provocativeness, treading lightly with its theme. Kubrick tried to make some elements more acceptable by omitting all material referring to Humbert's lifelong infatuation with "nymphets" and possibly ensuring Lolita looked like a teenager. James Harris, Kubrick's co-producer and uncredited co-screenwriter of Lolita decided with Kubrick to raise Lolita's age. Nonetheless, Kubrick had liaised with the censors during production and it was only "slightly edited", in particular removing the eroticism between Lolita and Humbert. As a result, the novel's more sensual aspects were toned down in the final cut, leaving much to the viewer's imagination. Kubrick would later say that had he known the severity of the censorship he would face, he probably would not have made the film.
Lolita was the first of two times Kubrick worked with British comic actor Peter Sellers, the second being Dr. Strangelove (1964). Sellers plays Clare Quilty, a second older man (unknown to Humbert) who is involved with Lolita, serving dramatically as Humbert's darker doppelganger. In the novel, Quilty is behind the scenes for most of the story, but Kubrick brings him to the foreground, which resulted in an expansion of his role (although it is only about thirty minutes of screen time). Kubrick exercises his dramatic license, and has Quilty pretend to be multiple characters in the film, allowing Sellers to employ his gift for mock accents.
Critical reception of the film was mixed; many praised it for its daring subject matter, while others were surprised by the lack of intimacy between Lolita and Humbert. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Sue Lyon, who played the title role, won a Golden Globe for Best Newcomer.
Film critic Gene Youngblood holds that stylistically Lolita is a transitional film for Kubrick, "marking the turning point from a naturalistic cinema...to the surrealism of the later films."
Kubrick's next film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), became a cult film and is now considered a classic. Roger Ebert wrote that it is the best satirical film ever made. The screenplay—based upon the novel Red Alert, by ex-RAF flight lieutenant Peter George (writing as Peter Bryant)—was co-written by Kubrick and George, with contributions by American satirist Terry Southern. Red Alert is a serious, cautionary tale of accidental atomic war. However, Kubrick found the conditions leading to nuclear war so absurd that the story became a sinister macabre comedy. Once re-conceived, Kubrick recruited Terry Southern to polish the final screenplay.
The story centers on an unauthorized American nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, initiated by renegade U.S.A.F. Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden; the character's name is a reference to Jack the Ripper). When Ripper gives his orders, the bombers are all at fail-safe points, before which passing they cannot arm their warheads, and past which, they cannot proceed without direct orders. Once past this point, the planes will only return with a prearranged recall code. The film intercuts between three locales: Ripper's Air Force Base, where RAF Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Sellers) tries to stop the mad Gen. Ripper by obtaining the codes; the Pentagon War Room, where the President of the United States (Sellers) and U.S.A.F. Gen. Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) try to develop a strategy with the Soviets to stop Gen. Ripper's B-52 bombers from dropping nuclear bombs on Russia; and Major Kong's (Slim Pickens) B-52 bomber, where he and his crew of airmen (never knowing their orders are false) doggedly try to complete their mission. It soon becomes clear that the bombers may reach Russia, since only Gen. Ripper knows the recall codes. At this point, the character of Dr. Strangelove (Sellers' third role) is introduced. His Nazi-style plans for ensuring the survival of the fittest of the human race in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust are the black-comedy highlight of the film.
Peter Sellers, who had played a pivotal part in Lolita, was hired to play four roles in Dr. Strangelove. He eventually played three, due to an injured leg and his difficulty in mastering bomber pilot Major "King" Kong's Texas accent. Kubrick later called Sellers "amazing", but lamented the fact that the actor's manic energy rarely lasted beyond two or three takes. To overcome this problem, Kubrick ran two cameras simultaneously and let Sellers improvise.
The film prefigured the antiwar sentiments which would become explosive only a few years after its release. It was highly irreverent toward war policies of the U.S., which were largely considered sacrosanct up to that time. Eight months after the release of Strangelove, the straight thriller Fail-Safe with a plot remarkably similar to that of Dr. Strangelove was released. Strangelove earned four Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture and Best Director) and the New York Film Critics' Best Director award.
Kubrick spent five years developing his next film, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The film was conceived as a Cinerama spectacle and was photographed in Super Panavision 70. Kubrick co-wrote the screenplay with science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke, expanding on Clarke's short story "The Sentinel". Kubrick reportedly told Clarke that his intention was to make "the proverbial great science fiction film."
2001 begins four million years ago with an encounter between a group of apes and a mysterious black monolith, which seems to trigger in them the ability to use a bone as both a tool and a weapon. This new knowledge allows them to reclaim a water hole from another group of apes, who have no tool-wielding ability. A victorious ape tosses his bone into the air, at which point the film makes a celebrated match-cut to an orbiting satellite, circa 2000. At this time, a group of Americans at their moon base dig up a monolith similar to that encountered by the apes, which sends a radio signal to Jupiter. Eighteen months later, a group of astronauts aboard the spaceship Discovery are sent to explore Jupiter, their true purpose of investigating the signal is initially concealed from them. During the flight, the ship's sentient HAL 9000 computer, aware of the truth about the mission, malfunctions but resists disconnection. Believing its control of the mission to be crucial, the computer terminates life support for most of the crew before it is shut down by the surviving astronaut, David Bowman (Keir Dullea). Using a space pod, Bowman explores another monolith in orbit around Jupiter, whereupon he is hurled into a portal in space at high speed, witnessing many strange cosmological phenomena. His interstellar journey ends with his transformation into a fetus-like new being enclosed in an orb of light, last seen gazing at Earth from space.
The $10,000,000 (U.S.) film was a massive production for its time. The groundbreaking visual effects were overseen by Kubrick and were engineered by a team that included a young Douglas Trumbull, who would become famous in his own right for his work on the films Silent Running and Blade Runner. Kubrick extensively used traveling matte photography to film space flight, a technique also used nine years later by George Lucas in making Star Wars, although that film also used motion-control effects that were unavailable to Kubrick at the time. Kubrick made innovative use of slit-scan photography to film the Stargate sequence. The film's striking cinematography was the work of legendary British director of photography Geoffrey Unsworth, who would later photograph classic films such as Cabaret and Superman. Manufacturing companies were consulted as to what the design of both special-purpose and everyday objects would look like in the future. At the time of the movie's release, Arthur C. Clarke predicted that a generation of engineers would design real spacecraft based upon 2001 "…even if it isn't the best way to do it." The film also is a rare instance of portraying space travel realistically, with complete silence in the vacuum of space and a realistic representation of weightlessness.
The film is famous for using classical music in place of an original score. Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra and Johann Strauss's The Blue Danube waltz became indelibly associated with the film for a while, especially the former, as it was not well-known to the public prior to the film. Kubrick also used music by contemporary avant-garde Hungarian composer György Ligeti, although some of the pieces were altered without Ligeti's consent. The appearance of Atmospheres, Lux Aeterna, and Requiem on the 2001 soundtrack was the first wide commercial exposure of Ligeti's work. This use of "program" music was not originally planned. Kubrick had commissioned composer Alex North to write a full-length score for the film, but Kubrick became so attached to the temporary soundtrack he had constructed during editing that he dropped the idea of an original score entirely.
Although it eventually became an enormous success, the film was not an immediate hit. Initial critical reaction was extremely hostile, with critics attacking the film's lack of dialogue, slow pacing, and seemingly impenetrable storyline. One of the film's few defenders was Penelope Gilliatt, who called it (in The New Yorker) "some kind of a great film". Word of mouth among young audiences—especially the 1960s counterculture audience, who loved the movie's "Star Gate" sequence, a seemingly psychedelic journey to the infinite reaches of the cosmos—made the film a hit. Despite nominations in the directing, writing, and producing categories, the only Academy Award Kubrick ever received was for supervising the special effects of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Today, however, many consider it the greatest sci-fi film ever made, and it is a staple on All Time Top 10 lists.
Artistically, 2001 was a radical departure from Kubrick's previous films. It contains only 45 minutes of spoken dialogue, over a running time of two hours and twenty minutes. The fairly mundane dialogue is mostly superfluous to the images and music. The film's most memorable dialogue belongs to the computer HAL in HAL's exchanges with Dave Bowman. Some argue that Kubrick is portraying a future humanity largely dissociated from a sterile and antiseptic machine-driven environment. The film's ambiguous, perplexing ending continues to fascinate contemporary audiences and critics. After this film, Kubrick would never experiment so radically with special effects or narrative form; however, his subsequent films would still maintain some level of ambiguity.
Interpretations of 2001: A Space Odyssey are numerous and diverse. Despite having been released in 1968, it still prompts debate today. When critic Joseph Gelmis asked Kubrick about the meaning of the film, Kubrick replied:
2001: A Space Odyssey is perhaps Kubrick's most famous and influential film. Steven Spielberg called it his generation's big bang, focusing attention upon the space race. It was a precursor to the explosion of the science fiction film market nine years later, which began with the release of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
1970s: A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon
After 2001, Kubrick initially attempted to make a film about the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. When financing fell through, Kubrick went looking for a project that he could film quickly on a small budget. He eventually settled on A Clockwork Orange (1971). His adaptation of Anthony Burgess' novel is a dark, shocking exploration of violence in human society. The film was initially released with an X rating in the United States and caused considerable controversy. The film's iconic poster imagery was created by legendary designer Bill Gold.
The story takes place in a futuristic version of Great Britain that is both authoritarian and chaotic. The central character is a teenage hooligan named Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell), who, along with his companion "droogs", gleefully torments, beats, robs, tortures, and rapes without conscience or remorse. His brutal beating and murder of an older woman finally lands Alex in prison. Alex undergoes an experimental medical aversion treatment, known as the Ludovico Technique, that inhibits his violent tendencies, though he has no real free moral choice. At the public demonstration of the success of the technique, Alex is treated cruelly but does not fight back; the treatment has made him less than human. He has been conditioned against classical music, his love of which was his one human feature, and apparently all of his sex drive is gone. We further see hints that the promotion of the treatment is politically motivated. After being freed, he is found by his former partners in crime who had betrayed him and who are now policemen, and they beat him mercilessly.
He then comes to the home of a political writer who disdains "the modern age" and is initially sympathetic to Alex's plight until he recognizes Alex as the young man who brutally raped his wife and paralyzed him a few years before. Alex then becomes a pawn in a political game.
The society was sometimes perceived as Communist (as Michel Ciment pointed out in an interview with Kubrick, although he himself didn't feel that way) due to its slight ties to Russian culture. The teenage slang has a heavily Russian vocabulary, which can be attributed to Burgess. There is some evidence to suggest that the society is a socialist one, or perhaps a society moving out of a failed, Leftist socialism and into a Rightist, or fascist, society. In the novel, streets have paintings of working men in the style of Russian socialist art, and in the film, there is a mural of socialist artwork with obscenities drawn on it. As Malcolm McDowell points out on the DVD commentary, Alex's residence was shot on failed Labour Party architecture, and the name "Municipal Flat Block 18A, Linear North" alludes to socialist-style housing. Later in the film, when the new right-wing government takes power, the atmosphere is certainly more authoritarian than the anarchist air of the beginning. Kubrick's response to Ciment's question remained ambiguous as to exactly what kind of society it is. He held that the film held comparisons between both the left and right end of the political spectrum and that there is little difference between the two. Kubrick stated, "The Minister, played by Anthony Sharp, is clearly a figure of the Right. The writer, Patrick Magee, is a lunatic of the Left. ...They differ only in their dogma. Their means and ends are hardly distinguishable."
Kubrick photographed A Clockwork Orange quickly and almost entirely on location in and around London. Despite the low-tech nature of the film as compared to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick showed his talent for innovation; at one point, he threw "an old Newman Sinclair clockwork mechanism camera" off a rooftop in order to achieve the effect he wanted. For the score, Kubrick enlisted electronic music composer Wendy Carlos—at the time, known as Walter Carlos (Switched-On Bach)—to adapt famous classical works (such as Beethoven's Ninth Symphony) for the Moog synthesizer.
It is pivotal to the plot that the lead character, Alex, is fond of classical music, and that the brainwashing Ludovico treatment accidentally conditions him against classical music. As such, it was natural for Kubrick to continue the tradition begun in 2001: A Space Odyssey of using a great deal of classical music in the score. However, in this film, classical music accompanies scenes of violent mayhem and coercive sexuality rather than of graceful space flight and mysterious alien presences. Both Pauline Kael (who generally disliked Kubrick) and Roger Ebert (who often praises Kubrick) found Kubrick's use of juxtaposing classical music and violence in this film unpleasant, Ebert calling it a "cute, cheap, dead-end dimension," and Kael, "self-important." Burgess, in his introduction to his own stage adaptation of the novel, held that ultimately, classical music is what will finally redeem Alex.
The film was extremely controversial because of its explicit depiction of teenage gang rape and violence. It was released in the same year as Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs and Don Siegel's Dirty Harry, and the three films sparked a ferocious debate in the media about the social effects of cinematic violence. The controversy was exacerbated when copycat crimes were committed in England by criminals wearing the same costumes as characters in A Clockwork Orange. British readers of the novel noted that Kubrick had omitted the final chapter (also omitted from American editions of the book) in which Alex finds redemption and sanity.
After receiving death threats to himself and his family as a result of the controversy, Kubrick took the unusual step of removing the film from circulation in Britain. It was unavailable in the United Kingdom until its re-release in 2000, a year after Kubrick's death, although it could be seen in continental Europe. The Scala cinema in London's Kings Cross showed the film in the early 1990s, and at Kubrick's insistence, the cinema was sued and put out of business, thus depriving London of one of its very few independent cinemas. It is now the Scala club. In early 1973, Kubrick re-released A Clockwork Orange to cinemas in the United States with footage modified so that it could get its rating reduced to an R. This enabled many more newspapers to advertise it, since in 1972 many newspapers had stopped carrying any advertising for X-rated films due to the new association of that rating with pornography.
In the mid-1990s, a documentary entitled Forbidden Fruit, about the censorship controversy, was released in Britain. Kubrick was unable to prevent the documentary makers from including footage from A Clockwork Orange in their film.
Kubrick's next film, released in 1975, was an adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's The Luck of Barry Lyndon, also known as Barry Lyndon, a picaresque novel about the adventures and misadventures of an 18th-century Irish gambler and social climber. After serving in the Prussian army, Lyndon slowly insinuates himself into English high society, eventually marrying the Countess of Lyndon. The world of the aristocracy turns out to be a hollow paradise, dull and decaying. Lyndon is ultimately unable to maintain his good standing there and falls from grace after a series of persecutions.
Reviewers such as Pauline Kael, who had been critical of Kubrick's previous work, found Barry Lyndon a cold, slow-moving, and lifeless film. Its measured pace and length—more than three hours—put off many American critics and audiences, although it received positive reviews from Rex Reed and Richard Schickel. Time magazine published a cover story about the film, and Kubrick was nominated for three Academy Awards. The film as a whole was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, more than any other Kubrick film. Despite this, Barry Lyndon was not a box office success in the U.S., although the film found a great audience in Europe, particularly in France. The French journal of film criticism, Cahiers du cinéma, included Barry Lyndon at 67 on its top 100 list of all-time films.
As with most of Kubrick's films, Barry Lyndon's reputation has grown through the years, particularly among other filmmakers. Director Martin Scorsese has cited it as his favorite Kubrick film. Steven Spielberg has praised its "impeccable technique", though, when younger, he famously described it "like going through the Prado without lunch."
As in his other films, Kubrick's cinematography and lighting techniques were highly innovative. Most famously, interior scenes were shot with a specially adapted high-speed f/0.7 Zeiss camera lens originally developed for NASA. This allowed many scenes to be lit only with candlelight, creating two-dimensional diffused-light images reminiscent of 18th-century paintings.
Like its two predecessors, the film does not have an original score. Irish traditional songs (performed by The Chieftains) are combined with works such as Antonio Vivaldi's Cello Concerto in B, a Johann Sebastian Bach Double Concerto, George Frideric Handel's Sarabande from the Keyboard Suite in D minor (HWV 448, HG II/ii/4), and Franz Schubert's German Dance No. 1 in C major, Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat, and Impromptu No. 1 in C minor. The music was conducted and adapted by Leonard Rosenman, for which he won an Oscar.
In 1976, production designer Ken Adam, who had worked with Kubrick on Dr. Strangelove and Barry Lyndon, asked Kubrick to visit the recently completed 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios to provide advice on how to light the enormous soundstage, which had been built and prepared for the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. Kubrick agreed to consult when it was promised that nobody would ever know of his involvement. This was honored until after his death in 1999, when in 2000 the fact was revealed by Adam in the documentary on the making of The Spy Who Loved Me on the special edition DVD release of the movie.
1980s: The Shining and Full Metal Jacket
The pace of Kubrick's work slowed considerably after Barry Lyndon, and he did not make another film for five years. The Shining, released in 1980, was adapted from the novel of the same name by bestselling horror writer Stephen King. The film starred Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, a failed writer who takes a job as an off-season caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, a high-class resort deep in the Colorado mountains. The job requires spending the winter in the isolated hotel with his wife, Wendy (played by Shelley Duvall) and their young son, Danny, who is gifted with a form of telepathy—the "shining" of the film's title.
As winter takes hold, the family's isolation deepens, and the demons and ghosts of the Overlook Hotel's dark past begin to awake, displaying horrible, phantasmagoric images to Danny, and driving his father Jack into a homicidal psychosis.
The film was shot entirely on London soundstages, with the exception of second-unit exterior footage, which was filmed in Colorado, Montana, and Oregon. In order to convey the claustrophobic oppression of the haunted hotel, Kubrick made extensive use of the newly invented Steadicam, a weight-balanced camera support, which allowed for smooth camera movement in enclosed spaces.
More than any of his other films, The Shining gave rise to the legend of Kubrick as a megalomaniac perfectionist. Reportedly, he demanded hundreds of takes of certain scenes (approximately 1.3 million feet of film was shot). This process was particularly difficult for actress Shelley Duvall, who was used to the faster, improvisational style of director Robert Altman.
Stephen King disliked the movie, calling Kubrick "a man who thinks too much and feels too little." In 1997, King collaborated with Mick Garris to create a television miniseries version of the novel that was more faithful to King's original.
The film opened to mixed reviews, but proved a commercial success. As with most Kubrick films, subsequent critical reaction has treated the film more favorably. Among horror movie fans, The Shining is a cult classic, often appearing at the top of best horror film lists alongside Psycho (1960), The Exorcist (1973), and other horror classics. Much of its imagery, such as the elevator shaft disgorging blood and the ghost girls in the hallway are among the most recognizable and widely known images from any Stanley Kubrick film, as are the lines "Redrum" and "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". The financial success of The Shining renewed Warner Brothers' faith in Kubrick's ability to make artistically satisfying and profitable films after the commercial failure of Barry Lyndon in the United States.
Seven years later, Kubrick made his next film, Full Metal Jacket (1987), an adaptation of Gustav Hasford's Vietnam War novel The Short-Timers, starring Matthew Modine as Joker, Adam Baldwin as Animal Mother, R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, and Vincent D'Onofrio as Private Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence. Kubrick said to film critic Steven Hall that his attraction to Gustav Hasford's book was because it was "neither antiwar or prowar", held "no moral or political position", and was primarily concerned with "the way things are."
The film begins at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, U.S., where Senior Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman relentlessly pushes his recruits through basic training in order to transform them from worthless "maggots" into motivated and disciplined killing machines. Private Lawrence, an overweight, slow-witted recruit who Hartman has nicknamed "Gomer Pyle", is unable to cope with the program and slowly cracks under the strain. On the eve of graduation, he has a psychotic breakdown and murders Hartman before killing himself.
In characteristic Kubrick style, the second half of the film jumps abruptly to Vietnam, following Joker, since promoted to sergeant. As a reporter for the United States military's newspaper, Stars and Stripes, Joker occupies war's middle ground, using wit and sarcasm to detach himself from the carnage around him. Though a Marine at war, he is also a reporter and is thus compelled to abide by the ethics of his profession. The film then follows an infantry platoon's advance on and through Hue City, decimated by the Tet Offensive. The film climaxes in a battle between Joker's platoon and a sniper hiding in the rubble, who is revealed to be a young girl. She almost kills Joker until his reporter partner shoots and severely injures her. Joker then kills her to put her out of her misery.
Filming a Vietnam War film in England was a considerable challenge for Kubrick and his production team. Much of the filming was done in the Docklands area of London, with the ruined-city set created by production designer Anton Furst. As a result, the film is visually very different from other Vietnam War films such as Platoon and Hamburger Hill, most of which were shot in the Far East. Instead of a tropical, Southeast-Asian jungle, the second half of the story unfolds in a city, illuminating the urban warfare aspect of a war generally portrayed (and thus perceived) as jungle warfare, notwithstanding significant urban skirmishes like the Tet offensive. Reviewers and commentators thought this contributed to the bleakness and seriousness of the film. During the making of the film, Kubrick was also helped by R. Lee Ermey, who acted and worked as technical adviser.
Full Metal Jacket received mixed critical reviews on release but also found a reasonably large audience, despite being overshadowed by Oliver Stone's Platoon and Clint Eastwood's Heartbreak Ridge. Like Kubrick's other films, its critical status has increased immensely since its initial release.
1990s: Eyes Wide Shut
Kubrick's final film was Eyes Wide Shut, starring then-married actors Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as a wealthy Manhattan couple on a sexual odyssey.
The story of Eyes Wide Shut is based on Arthur Schnitzler's Freudian novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story in English), although the story has been moved from Vienna in the 1920s to New York City in the 1990s. It follows Dr. William Harford's journey into the sexual underworld of New York City, after his wife, Alice, has shattered his faith in her fidelity by confessing to having fantasized about giving him and their daughter up for one night with another man. Until then, Harford had presumed women are more naturally faithful than men. This new revelation generates doubt and despair, and he begins to roam the streets of New York, acting blindly on his jealousy.
After trespassing upon the rituals of a sinister, mysterious sexual cult, Dr. Harford thinks twice before seeking sexual revenge against his wife. Upon returning home, his wife now gives an anguished confession she has had a dream about making love to several men at once. After his own dangerous escapades, Dr. Harford has no high moral ground over her. The couple begin to patch their relationship.
The film was in production for more than two years, and two of the main members of the cast, Harvey Keitel and Jennifer Jason Leigh, were replaced in the course of the filming. Although it is set in New York City, the film was mostly shot on London soundstages, with little location shooting. Shots of Manhattan itself were pickup shots filmed in New York City by a second-unit crew. Because of Kubrick's secrecy about the film, mostly inaccurate rumors abounded about its plot and content. Most especially, the story's sexual content provoked speculation, some journalists writing that it would be "the sexiest film ever made." The casting of then celebrity-actor supercouple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as a husband-wife couple in the film increased the pre-release journalistic hyperbole.
Eyes Wide Shut, like Lolita and A Clockwork Orange before it, faced censorship before release. In the United States and Canada, digitally manufactured silhouette figures were strategically placed to mask explicit copulation scenes so as to secure an R rating from the MPAA. In Europe, and the rest of the world, the film has been released uncut, in its original form. The October 2007 DVD reissue contains the uncut version, making it available to North American audiences for the first time.
In 1999—four days after screening a final cut of Eyes Wide Shut for his family, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, and Warner Bros. executives—70-year-old Kubrick died of a heart attack in his sleep. He was buried next to his favorite tree in Childwickbury Manor, Hertfordshire, England, U.K.