Revolutionary Artist Stanley Kubrick

Born July 26, 1928 in New York City, Stanly Kubrick had a rich life and one of the most influential film making careers of his time. Kubrick was a revolutionary artistic director whose films each had a unique philosophical study and innovation to film behind them all, from his horrific Shining, to his mysterious Eyes Wide Shut and Clockwork orange, and the adventure of a science-fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey. His is a unique, irreplaceable vision and he died before his time, leaving an incomparable legacy of films that have stood the test for generations.

As a director, Kubrick’s bag of tricks contained a variety of tools and techniques he frequently used to spin his entire collection of work. Some of the techniques he’s used over the years include, symmetrical framing, tracking shots, zooms, lighting effects, and a recurring look among his character that was aptly coined “The Kubrick Stare.”

Kubrick spent four years making his film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), a science-fiction epic based on a haunting short story by Arthur C.

Clarke. The film is divided into three parts, with only the middle section resembling a traditional narrative. In that section two astronauts on a spaceship bound for the planet Jupiter are forced to contest their wits with HAL 9000, the ship’s conscious onboard computer, after it malfunctions. Prehistoric apes are the central focus of the first section, and the last section contains a sequence of wildly impressionistic images as the spaceship is sucked into a dimension in which time and space are disturbed.

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Going beyond its concentration on humanity’s developing relationship with machines and artificial intelligence, the themes and meaning of 2001: A Space Odyssey are quite elusive. Kubrick himself said “he hoped that the film’s significance would transcend language and reason” (b0).

His superb use of classical music is used to intensify the atmosphere, character, and story that was a signature of his filmmaking. The film also set a new standard for movie special effects and has been praised for the surprising number of futuristic technologies it depicted that have subsequently been invented. Kubrick’s “2001” pioneered the early use of what’s called motion control photography. The model spaceships used in the film were moved along precise tracks that allowed the crew to precisely replicate their course repeatedly, so that multiple elements of a single film sequence could later be combined into the composite image the viewer sees. This same technique was adopted George Lucas in the first three Star Wars movies to create the large space ships and Death Star.

To create a sensation of witnessing the future, Kubrick needed to invent the objects from the future. To ease the burden of imagining what that world would have, Kubrick outsourced some of the work by adopting an early form of product placement: Hamilton would design the wrist watches, Vogue was charged with fabricating the cast’s clothing, hairstyle and makeup, and IBM worked on the computer systems and technology presented in the film. During pre-production of “2001” Kubrick collected vast amounts of research on what life in space would be like in our near future, consulting with the aerospace industry. The idea of a rapidly spinning centrifuge that could harness centripetal force to maintain earthly levels of gravity was a popular new idea at the time, so Kubrick decided the film’s Discovery spaceship should prominently feature a copy of this concept. He went so far as to hire Vickers Engineering Group to create a $300,000 imitation centrifuge.

The Ferris wheel-like set allowed Kubrick to film famous scenes that appear to show an astronaut jogging in a vertical circle or walking up the round sides of the ship. In the post-Star Wars era of filmmaking, it may be almost impossible to fully appreciate just what Kubrick was able to do in terms of special effects. Science fiction as a genre and especially movies about space travel have been firmly entrenched within the high-budget and rather complicated style of presentations expected by the audience. This obligation to creating a new standard of quality in special effects essentially meant Kubrick’s special effects crew would be creating a brand-new way of producing the illusion of realistic space travel that has revolutionized the movie industry forever.

Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange (1971), was adapted himself from the 1963 novel of the same name by Anthony Burgess. Kubrick’s rendering of this world was visually stunning, and he cast Malcolm McDowell as the violence-addicted teenage hoodlum who is caught and reprogrammed by the government. Ruthless and cynical, this deliberately provocative, nihilistic view of society and its malcontents earned an X rating for excessive violence when it was released in the United States. A Clockwork Orange divided critic’s yet it was nominated for Academy Awards for best picture, best director, and best screenplay. A Clockwork Orange takes place in a futuristic city governed by a repressive, totalitarian super-State.

In this society, ordinary citizens have fallen into a kind of passive stupor of complacency, blind to the sinister growth of an unrestrained, violent youth culture. The protagonist of the film is Alex, who narrates the film in a teenage slang called Nadsat, which incorporates different elements of Russian and Cockney English. Alex leads a small gang of teenage criminals—Dim, Pete, and Georgie—through the streets, robbing and beating men and raping women for fun. Alex and his friends spend the most of their time at the Korova Milkbar, an establishment that serves milk laced with drugs, and another bar called the Duke of New York. Kubrick often compared the character of Alex to Shakespeare’s Richard III, calling him ‘a character whom you should dislike and fear and yet, you find yourself drawn very quickly into his world and find yourself seeing things through his eyes'(0).

Production of A Clockwork Orange took place in and around London from September 1970 – April 1971. Kubrick used many wide-angle lenses and hand-held shots to achieve the film’s surreal quality and show the story from Alex’s point of view. He also Inserted transitions between important scenes force the audience to “fill in the gaps ‘of time between an event(s). Classical Hollywood cinema of the time dictated that scenes needed to be cut in a seemingly seamless fashion something Kubrick never comprehended. Classical music enters A Clockwork Orange thought the film. When Alex preys on unwitting and unwilling victims the music resembles that of a formal concert hall seeming almost unfitting for such a violent scene.

The film’s lasting impression has since inspired other filmmakers. When late Heath Ledger was preparing to play The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Night, he kept a diary of what he imagined the villain’s mentality to look like, in it contained several photos of Alex. Quentin Tarantino even based his torture scene in Reservoir Dogs, which is set to ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’, on the scene where Alex attacks the Alexanders while singing ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. The made-up language of Nadsat is the single most striking literary device that Kubrick employs. Its initial effect is exclusion and alienation, as the viewer processes the foreignness of Alex’s speech. This effect is important because it keeps us removed from the intensely brutal violence that Alex commits. In this way, Alex implicates us in the remorseless violence he commits throughout and we in turn develop sympathy for him as our narrator.

Nadsat shows the subtle, subliminal ways that language can control others. The idea of Behaviorism or ‘behavioral psychology’ behavior modification — specifically, with operant conditioning being key to an ideal society presented during Alex’s time in prison. The film’s Ludovico technique is widely perceived as a parody of aversion therapy. As the film chronicles the horrific crime spree of his gang, his capture, and attempted rehabilitation via an experimental psychological conditioning technique (Ludovico Technique) promoted by the Minister of the Interior the audience is presented with another level of fear and disgust that makes them sympathize with Alex. Despite the controversy, Kubrick’s mastery of his form is thoroughly evident in A Clockwork Orange, and the legacy of the film is still as powerful as it was when the film came out. The themes of rebellion, morality and plentiful dark humor in both the film and book still provide a natural lyrical commonality for the thematic content of the film.

The Shining begins with A novelist – Jack Torrance who takes a job interview as winter caretaker of the isolated beautiful Overlook Hotel. In the interview, Jack explains that he’ll be working on his play and that Wendy and Danny have plenty to keep them occupied. Jack however is told by the manager himself, that the previous caretaker – Grady, murdered his family with an ax and later killed himself with a shotgun. Ignoring the story, Jack brings his wife – Wendy and his son Danny to the hotel. Danny has a mysterious power known as ‘The Shining’ that shows him visions from the past and future. Some of the visions come from Tony – ‘the little boy who lives in Danny’s mouth’. Danny meets Hallorann – the hotel cook the first day arriving at the Overlook, who also has this ‘Shining’ and he warns him about the hotel and the sinister Room 237.

While Wendy worries, Jack takes the tour of the hotel’s boiler room with Watson. Watson warns Jack repeatedly to check the boiler frequently otherwise, the pressure will build up inside it and it’ll explode, taking the Overlook with it. As the days go by, Danny has visions of previous guests and employees who died at the hotel years before, meanwhile Jack starts falling deeper into insanity, becoming more and more aggressive, at the point that Danny and Wendy get convinced that Jack might try to do the something to them. While Jack slowly gets more violent and angry of his life, his son, Danny, tries to use a special talent, the ‘Shining’, to inform the people outside the hotel about whatt is going on in the hotel. As the film develops, it becomes more mysterious, confusing, and hallucinatory.

Nothing carries out that feeling more than the film’s final shot – a zoom in on an Overlook staff party from 1921, where it appears Jack is standing front and center. The photograph is something that director Stanley Kubrick discussed in interviews. His answer not only explains the concept behind the photo but serves to counter some other theories as to what’s going on overall at the Overlook Hotel. Stanley Kubrick said, “The ballroom photograph at the very end suggests the reincarnation of Jack.” (0). That suggests that Jack is the reincarnation of a someone on staff at the Overlook in 1921. Charles Grady, the man who went stir crazy and killed his family in the Overlook was the reincarnation of Delbert Grady, the ghost butler Jack meets in the hotel bathroom. The Overlook seems to have the power to recall reincarnated versions of its past guests and employees. Delbert Grady tells Jack that he’s “always been the caretaker,” implying the hotel continues to revisit its past inhabitants.

Kubrick’s painstaking attention to technical details didn’t end when production ended. Although King’s novel already contained images like the hotel’s hedge maze, Kubrick’s version of the Overlook Hotel was grounded in geometry, patterns, and symmetry to leave a lasting impression in the mind of the viewer. Many of the film’s most famous shots have gained their fame precisely due to this obsession with symmetry and geometry, such as Danny’s forays through the hotel’s carpeted halls and the hotel’s scale model of the exterior hedge maze. Kubrick went so far as to design the sets in the Overlook Hotel to take advantage of the camera’s liberating potential, and the director make heavy use of the then-experimental camera during the famous hedge-maze scene.

While conventional handheld cameras were fine for capturing a kind of jogging-over-potholes effect, the Steadicam’s shock-absorbing design allowed directors a newfound mobility and long, continuous takes without losing a smooth, steady focus. In the wake of ‘The Shining,’ the camera quickly became standard equipment on movie sets. Kubrick’s ability to center the actual shots of the film, however, were largely due to the revolutionary Steadicam. Whereas cameras had historically relied on tripods and/or dolly platforms that glide smoothly across space using tracks for stabilization. Kubrick hired Garrett Brown (inventor) as his camera operator for The Shining, making the movie one of the earliest showcases of the Steadicam, now standard in Hollywood movies.

Eyes Wide Shut focuses on the lives of Dr. Bill and Mrs. Alice Harford are a young, upper middle-class couple living in a lavish apartment along Central Park with their young daughter, Helena. It’s the Christmas season, and like they have been the past several years, they are invited to the lavish Christmas ball hosted by Victor Ziegler. Based on their individual encounters at the party, which includes Bill secretly providing his professional services to a guest, Bill and Alice have an important discussion about their sex life and their sexual fantasies, most specifically if those fantasies that include other people and ideas of infidelity.

Bill notices those sexual opportunities available to him outside of their marriage begin to become more present. Although he contemplates seizing upon those opportunities, it’s the one mentioned to him by Nick Nightingale that arouses Bill’s interest. Bill’s curiosity is increased by Nick’s pleas for him not to follow-up on what he tells him. That opportunity is a secret, invitation only party, where Nick is hired to play blindfolded, with the party location divulged to him only one hour prior to his arrival. It was during a previous party that Nick saw beneath his blindfold that it was a sex party, all the participants dressed in costume and wearing masquerade masks, to provide anonymity to the attendees. Bill is able to sneak his way into this latest party, which is even more elaborate than his wildest fantasies. But what happens at the party irreparably influences his marriage and sex life with Alice, and their whole world live.

Kubrick’s movie Eyes Wide Shut is praised for being almost dream-like and for the methods used by the director to create the sense that the viewer was actually present in the movie with the rest of the characters. The actors are also praised for their acting, acting that was the result of the way the Kubrick chose to film the scenes. The actors appear to be detached, and close to exhaustion. Kubrick insisted that some shots be redone multiple times, until they were perfect in his opinion. This made the actors feel more fatigued resulting in the tiredness they exhibit in the movie not being staged and that it was all very real for them. The dialogue of the film is also presented as extremely slow and. The characters move in the film extremely slowly as well with careful deliberate movement which gives the movie a sensation of dreaminess and almost drug-induced obscurity.

The main characters remain detached and impersonal and this forces the viewer to get involved and become completely immersed in the movie. In the film Kubrick preferred to use Natural lighting and Practical lighting sources can range from lamps, candles, string lights, the headlights of a car, and pretty much any light emitting prop you can come up with. Before then, the standard method of lighting used in the golden age of Hollywood was the three-point lighting system. In the three-point system, the subject or character is surrounded by three off camera lights. The first light is the key light. It is the principal light, most often the brightest light that shines directly on the subject. The second light is the filler light. This light shines on the subject from specific angles to reduce the hard shadows created by the key light. And finally, the backlight. The backlight shines on the subject so that the subject is separated from the background.

The musical selection was very important to Kubrick. In the sex party scene Kubrick used Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio. Eyes Wide Shut provides its slight narrative with the thematic majesty of opera, but the closest it ever gets is its symbolic importation of Fidelio. The story is about a woman sacrificing herself for her husband and somewhere within the complexity of whatever it is the film is trying to say, the film is also about a wife’s sacrifice. These combined elements allowed Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut to transport the audience directly into the film with an impression of being part of the film’s narrative. Kubrick rejected the established rules and norms of film making to create something new and interesting. Kubrick attempted to draw the audience in by making his characters relatable, Heroes and Valin’s alike, giving them emotions and problems found deep within the mind. He used and experimented with new technology’s and styles. Much like the Impressionists who used loosened brushwork and lightened palettes to include pure, intense colors.

They too abandoned traditional linear perspective form what had previously served to distinguish the more important elements of art from lesser ones. For this reason, many faulted the Impressionist paintings for their unfinished appearance and seemingly unprofessional quality. Scientific thought at the time was beginning to recognize that the eye perceived art differently than the brain. The Impressionists sought to capture the this and show the optical effects of light. In their landscapes and genre scenes, the Impressionist tried to capture a particular moment in time. The Impressionists wanted to create an art that was modern by capturing the rapid pace of contemporary life and the fleeting conditions of light. They often painted outdoors (en plein air) to capture the appearance of light as it flickered and faded while they worked. Their technique tried to capture what they saw as they saw it.

They painted small areas of pure color next to one another. When a viewer stood at a distance their eyes would see a mix of individual marks and colors that had blended optically rather than physically. This method created more vibrant colors than colors mixed in a physical way. The works that focused on scenes of public leisure, scenes of cafés and cabarets which conveyed the new sense of alienation experienced by the inhabitants of the first modern metropolis. The Impressionists did something ground-breaking in addition to painting their sketchy, light-filled canvases, they established their own exhibition. They all had experienced rejection by the Salon jury in recent years and felt that waiting an entire year between exhibitions was too long, they needed to show their work to the world. Though his work was widely criticized and even banned (clockwork) it inspired many filming styles and techniques regarded as revolutionary today. His is a unique and irreplaceable vision left an incomparable legacy on films that have stood the test of time for generations.

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Revolutionary Artist Stanley Kubrick. (2021, Dec 16). Retrieved from

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