Stanley Kubrick is one of the most influential and daring filmmakers to ever put his mark on the silver screen. He has created a large body of very influential works spanning several decades and many genres. Throughout his whole collection there are many elements which are repeatedly used to enhance the viewer's experience. There are also many recurring themes in Kubrick's works that are commented on both by the context in which they are brought forth and the techniques used to expound upon those themes.
In this paper I will be specifically discussing five of my favorite Kubrick films to demonstrate various aspects of Kubrick as an auteur: Dr. Strangelove, the cult classic dark comedy about nuclear warfare, 2001: A Space Odyssey, a benchmark science fiction film, A Clockwork Orange, a dystopian commentary on our society, The Shining, a horror film that follows few rules, and Full Metal Jacket, a Vietnam movie filmed entirely in England.
Kubrick is very fond of the three act structure. In fact, all of the aforementioned movies follow a three act structure except for 2001. Dr. Strangelove divides neatly into the beginning where the story is introduced, then a period of escalating tension after the doomsday device is introduced, and the closing action revolving around the continued efforts of the single remaining B-52. A Clockwork Orange's three acts include the ultraviolent actions of Alex and his gang, the Ludovico treatment (containing possibly one of the most recognizable scenes in film), and Alex's life after being reformed. The Shining has The Interview, The Overlook, and after Jack loses his last grip on sanity. Full Metal Jacket is broken into Bootcamp, Vietnam, and (as Kubrick's characters referred to it) The Shit.
2001: A Space Odyssey stands out because Kubrick seems to have broken it into four distinct sections. The first section is the famous pre-man sequence set 4 million years in the past, followed by Dr. Floyd's trip to the moon. Then the viewer is told it is 18 months later, and now we are about Discovery One on a voyage to Saturn. Bowman then goes though the pillar thing to begin the "Star Gate" sequence, a psychedelic trip to the end of time with metaphysical undertones. I believe that Kubrick divided 2001 intentionally into four parts to make it stand out from the rest of his films. It seems to me that 2001 is an allegory for the progress of mankind as a species. It seems to be a visual representation of the metaphysical wanderings of Carl Jung, who discussed humanity as having three stages of evolution. The theory (as I understand it) is that sometime in the past we had 44 chromosomes and we were more animalistic. We somehow acquired 2 new chromosomes and moved onto the existence we have now, at a higher level of consciousness than our 44 chromosome ancestors. At some point in the future we will supposedly garner 2 new chromosomes and advance to an even higher level of consciousness. This seems to fit the sequences in 2001 if we allow that both the trip to the moon and the trip to Jupiter are 46 chromosome humans, the pre-man is obviously our 44 chromosome ancestor, and the "Star Baby" that bowman is transformed into at the end is the 46 & 2 chromosome higher level of consciousness (which seems reasonable considering how appraising the baby seems to be looking back at Earth). I had not considered this aspect of the movie until Private Joker mentioned Jung and the duality of man in Full Metal Jacket. 2001 also speaks about the natural history of humanity, and has some very powerful imagery and symbolism in the use of tools. The pre-man sequence ends is a 4 million year spanning match cut that lines up the bone used to kill with a satellite hurtling through space to the strings of classical music. HAL, the 9000 series computer, is the epitome of tool usage, it is man made intelligence, and not only that, it is error-proof. To think that we could create something perfect and...
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