Filmmakers Profile: Stanley Kubrick

From The Shining to Dr Strangelove, we see Stanley Kubrick victimise, scrutinize, and squeeze out any hidden emotion from his cast to create some of the most iconic screenplays we see in films. The age, and sometimes primitive, nature of his films do not hinder the excellence in any shape, as Kubrick used every tool at his disposal to create madness within a masterpiece.


There are four specific scenes that come to mind that fully justify his work, and they have left us all wondering at the mentality of Kubrick and his cast afterwards.

Firstly is the boot camp scene from Full Metal Jacket.  This scene marks the initialisation of a sinister and sick downward spiral of Private Leonard Lawrence’s (Vincent D’Onofrio) mental health as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R.Lee Ermey) begins his cruel onslaught. Why this scene is so iconic in Kubrick’s list of works is due to the casting choice of R.Lee Ermey. Kubrick allowed him to improvise pretty much all of his scenes and we see from this scene the shocking and brutal nature of the army camp through an ex General himself. The rest of the film after the death of Lawrence loses its way but Ermey’s part throughout is as authentic and real to the other actors as it possibly could be.

A Clockwork Orange has countless enthralling and disturbing scenes throughout, but one of the most memorable scenes is the one coined ‘singing in the rape’.  Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his sociopathic comrades commit one of their many break-ins to, this time to a couple. The scene provides some of the darkest humour throughout the film as McDowell improvises Gene Kelly’s Singing in the Rain in a sadistic manner. What makes this part so emphatic is how Kubrick has prompted McDowell to act with such sinister behaviour. How Kubrick has manipulated McDowell to act in this way is actually quite scary, with this scene giving a terrifying mental insight to Alex.

Throughout Dr Strangelove, there are many scenes that contain summit discussions about the cold war surrounding a circular table. Stanley Kubrick persisted that this table must be green. This may seem relatively mundane today, but Dr Strangelove was a black and white film. Kubrick’s decision to have the table be green is so odd because obviously we cannot see the table as being green, to us it would not matter if it was hot pink. We may ponder that it was possibly done to create an apprehensive and serious mood among the actors, but the fact that this film is a comedy makes that conclusion quite doubtful. Was it possibly done to arouse suspicion among the cast? Did it act as a tool for the actors to play on throughout the film? Was it simply that Kubrick was an insane bastard and just really wanted that fucking table to be green? Who knows, all of this speculation about the table just makes it even more of an odd decision.

Finally, who can forget about the scenes throughout The Shining? The Stephen King novel is known for being one of the best horror novels of its time, and Kubrick’s adaptation from this novel had to be as sadistically channelled as possible to match it. I could spend hours drafting up the countless creepy and superstitious scenes from the film, and I am sure you could too, but there is one scene in the film that really captures what Kubrick aimed with in The Shining. The typewriter scene where Shelley Duvall is previewing Jack Nicholson’s demented writings of ‘All work and no play makes jack a dull boy’ stresses the volume Kubrick pushed his colleagues. Instead of simply making a few pages repeating those words and then sticking the bottom with empty paper, Kubrick had his typewriter hand type every single word on every single piece of paper. We only see a few pages of the work but much like Dr Strangelove it just resonates suspicion on why he did this. However, The Shining has a direction that is a little more obvious and Kubrick pretty much tortured some of his colleagues to get his desired depiction; his typewriter and Shelly Duvall herself were victims of this.

Kubrick, as strange a genius as he was, was able to create some of the most timeless films. There are probably many other quirks and oddities that exist within his 16 works, yet it’s questionable whether we will unravel all of them anytime soon.

[Arron Cockell]

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