Stanley Kubrick is possibly the greatest film-maker that ever existed. Now, that’s just one person’s opinion, but if you’ve actually watched his films, you’ll experience something very peculiar. Any good director out there makes his films as meaningful as possible. This can be something small, like the positioning of the camera for a specific angle or something very large, such as a metaphor in the story, which further points to some other detail. These can be found in most good films nowadays. Kubrick’s films are soaked with these small metaphors and Easter eggs, if you will.
Perhaps the film most acclaimed (and disliked) for its hidden meanings is 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), a film rendition of a book with the same name. It will have you tearing your hair in confusion. You can think of it as the non-action version of Transformers. You can see stuff happening, but you have no idea what’s really going on. The film goes from the Apes (from whom humans arose) to an alien structure on the Moon to a mission to Jupiter which gets taken over by an artificial intelligence, to some crazy 5th dimension and then lastly to a star baby. Trust me, that's the best explanation I can give without resorting to spoilers. It is nearly impossible to find a link between the various stages of the film. Bottom line, some weird shit happens. But the true brilliance of Kubrick’s mastery over film can be seen through this movie, and it’s deep. Each shot and scene has been thought over to hold the maximum detail and meaning, and it’s simply stunning to watch it unfold.
Stanley Kubrick is second most famous for A Clockwork Orange, yet another book adaptation. It is one of the most violent movies ever, even compared to today’s standards. In fact, it is so violent that it wasn’t released at all, until Kubrick’s death in 1999, with a certification of X (PG-13 < R < NC-17 < X). However, what you should be taking from this movie is not its violence but the attention to detail. The hope is to convince the audience of the protagonist’s ultra-violent nature and it does nothing but that. Within minutes, it has you despising (yet unable to break the fixating gaze on) him and his gang of droogs who go around murdering and raping innocent civilians… and drinking milk (an odd combination, yes).
One of the other remarkable fortes of Kubrick was cinematography. He started out as a photographer when he was 16 and shot around 30,000 pictures for Look Magazine before he moved on to motion picture. His style of photography is very unique and can be seen in all his films. The Shining (1980) and Paths Of Glory (1957) were two films that were commended greatly for their distinctive cinematography. They both showcased Kubrick’s signature Steadicam shot. Although the style has been used before, once, in an Italian movie from 1914, Kubrick was solely responsible for its renewed fame.
One can argue over the creativity of Kubrick’s ideas as almost all of his films are adaptations of novels. As true as that is, it says nothing of his abilities as a director. One of the most notable features about him was his obsessive nature when it came to his films. He is known for his unconventional and controversial methods of directing and one of them was to intimidate actors into portraying real emotions on set. For example, in The Shining (1980), the actors were made to redo a particular scene 127 times! The result- one of the most iconic scenes of all time. The actress, Shelly Duvall, who starred in the scene alongside Jack Nicholson became furious with Kubrick and the emotions seen in the scene are completely authentic. This process was repeated several times throughout the movie and this lead to one of the trademark horror flicks of all time.
Another example of his vexatiously compelling nature can be seen in Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964) (I’m not kidding, that’s what it’s called). Kubrick insisted that the table used for one of the scenes, with military generals and nuclear scientists debating over a doomsday machine which had the potential to destroy the planet, be green. Now this seems like a perfectly reasonable request until you realize it’s a black and white film! The reason, as Kubrick says was so that it appeared as if they were gambling over matters which concerned the fate of mankind.
You’re probably under the impression that Stanley Kubrick is nuts and you’re half right. But for the other half, his work is truly extraordinary. To make every shot and scene in every film rich with meaningful intimations would take a great deal of intelligence and thought. And when you put all of it together? You get a masterpiece! His films, although not received well by the general audience, are undoubtedly brilliant! They have inspired many directors like Christopher Nolan (Interstellar, The Dark Knight), David Fincher (Gone Girl, Fight Club), David Lynch (Mulholland Drive, Eraserhead) and countless more.
In conclusion, Stanley Kubrick is one of the most versatile and influential directors of all time and his work warrants several re-watches. Any aspiring film-maker should definitely give his films a go. So if you’re a film buff (or not) and haven’t watched his movies yet, I highly recommend you get to it!