Kubrick Lives

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Kubrick Lives

The theory of authorship as applied to film directors is a subject that is argued extensively throughout the film world. The auteur theory was first introduced in the French film journal Cahiers du Cinema. Andrew Sarris who suggested that there are a group of filmmakers who fit into this category brought the theory to America. It states that in order for a director to be considered an auteur, there must be a consistency of style and theme across a number of films. Very few contemporary filmmakers fit into this category. One filmmaker, however, expanded his filmography over four and a half decades, and created a consistent theme and style. That director was Stanley Kubrick.

Kubrick was known as a very stylistic filmmaker, so a lot can be said about his film style. His use of music, however, remains the most prominent aspect of Kubrick’s film style, especially as his career progressed. He was a master at using music to evoke feelings and create tension and confusion. The two most prominent examples of the power of music occur in A Clockwork Orange, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The first of these two films, 2001, was created like a symphony. It had an overture at the beginning, a musical intermission, and an epilogue at the end. The classical work of Richard Strauss, “Also Spach Zarathustra”, supplies the most recognizable and moving main title theme of the film. The use of this music as well as other classical works including the frolicky “Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss gives the film a flowing quality that it wouldn’t normally have. Most of the music is light in nature, which contradicts the mystery that is unfolding in space. The beautiful imagery is matched well with the images and the editing to provide an incredible viewing experience. In A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick does virtually the same thing with music, only in a darker way. In the film, Alex is given a treatment that will make him ill when confronted with violence or sex. Unfortunately for him, the films he is forced to watch are scored with Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony”, which is Alex’s favorite music. A sense of irony and empathy is created in that by Alex trying to take the easy way out, he is forced to give up the three things he loves most: sex, violence, and Beethoven. His love of music backfires on him once again with his crooning of the song “Singin’ in the Rain.” In one of...

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...d. This solidifies the theme of duality by blatantly showing us the symbols.

Style and theme in filmmaking go hand in hand. Stanley Kubrick was a master of using his own personal style to create a series of works, all with very similar themes. He believed strongly in the way music can affect the development of conflict. Every film that he has directed (excluding Spartacus) has a strong music and sound design that makes it undeniably Kubrick. (He didn’t have his usual control over Spartacus). From the lush soundtrack of 2001 to the minimal soundtrack of Dr. Strangelove, we can see that every piece of music has its place and its reason for being there. Even in the trailer for the upcoming Eyes Wide Shut, you can see that music will be an important part of it. Also, because Kubrick deals with the same underlying themes from film to film to film, we can come to understand his thoughts and emotions. The troubled protagonist and the duality of self remained consistent fixtures throughout his career. By seeing these styles and themes surface in Stanley Kubrick’s work, we can justify designating him a film auteur. It is a shame that we will not be able to watch him grow any further.
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