A Versatile Film-Maker Essay, Research Paper
Who would think that a black comedy about nuclear war, an insightful science fiction movie, and a spine tingling horror film would have anything in common? Nevertheless, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Oddessy, and The Shining all share a common link: their brilliant director. Stanley Kubrick has become a household name in the film-making industry. His style and techniques produce cinematically ingenious inventions that have captured audiences across the globe. His stellar writing, directing, and producing abilities have made him the master film-maker that he is. Although his style is very unique, much of this style can be detected in the production of many of his movies. These three movies contain his defined style of movie-making, particularly in the areas of technical aspects, theme, and conclusions.
The technical aspects of Kubrick s movies have become well-known. One technique that seems to be consistent throughout all three movies is high-key lighting and over-exposure. In Strangelove, we see a great deal of over-exposure used to highlight key points in the movie. When Mandrake tells the President Ripper s recall code, the lighting is very bright. This is used in order to depict the importance of this scene. Again, when the bomb is about to be dropped and the hatch opens up, the lighting is very bright. Similarly, in 2001, high-key lighting is used a great deal. We see clear examples of this as Bowman is traveling through the monolith. The lights are streaky and very bright. The scene in which the over-exposure made the biggest impact is when Bowman arrives at the end of his journey in the hotel room. The entire room is flooded with white and the scene is almost blinding. The only relief one finds from this blinding sight is that of Bowman in the midst of the room. In The Shining, as well, there is over-exposure used to bring the viewer s eye to the object or person being over-exposed. As Wendy describes Danny s injury to the doctor, Wendy is swimming in bright light while the doctor is in the shadow of the room. This seems to imply that the doctor s words are being ignored. Also as Jack is chasing Wendy up the stairs, the light from outside floods in behind him in order to highlight his facial expressions. High-key lighting was an important aspect to all three of these films.
Another technical aspect of the movies was the use of camera angles. In Strangelove, Kubrick used many low-angle shots, particularly in the plane. The shots were seen from the bottom up to the pilots faces. There is also the use of bird s eye view as the bomb is falling from the plane. This shot was one that was also used a great deal in The Shining. As the film begins, there is an overhead shot of the hotel. Again, as Wendy and Danny are walking through the maze, we see them from very high up. Then a high-angle shot is used as Jack walks up the stairs towards Wendy. The shot is from the top of the stairs looking down at Jack. Aside from high-angle shots, we also see some worm s eye views. In 2001, there is an excellent example of this when a moon and sun are shown over the top of the monolith as if someone were looking straight up the length of the monolith. There are also a low-angle shots used in The Shining when Jack is leaning against the storage door and when Wendy is going through Jack s “script.” This film also using another filming technique known as the tracking camera. Often times we see the camera following Jack, Danny, as well as Dick Halorann.
These Kubrick films have much in common and also share central themes. A theme shared by these films is that of isolation. Each of the movies had characters who were, in some way, isolated from the rest of the world. Particularly in 2001, isolation is a major factor in the story content of the movie. Bowman has been isolated from the entire world after all companions are terminated. He is floating in space and has no contact with the Earth. Most of his journey he takes alone and in solitude. Even as he transforms into the Star Child at the end, he is alone, although he is with the monolith. Also in The Shining, there is a great sense of isolation. The family is living hundreds of miles away from any form of civilization with no way to reach another human. When the radio and the snow cat are broken, the Torrence s are snow bound and are alone at the hotel. Although it is not as apparent in Dr. Strangelove, there is a feeling of isolation. The isolation lies in the pilots who are isolated from the world by their orders to go beyond the fail-safe point. Even though they have some communication with the base, they are not allowed to listen, therefore they are isolated from the others.
One aspect that seems to be present in all of these films is the fact that all endings are unresolved. Although the story ends at the end, Kubrick leaves his audience with another mystery only to be interpreted by individual minds. This is plainly seen in 2001 and The Shining. It is also present in Dr. Strangelove, however it is not as clear. In the latter of the three, we see a series of nuclear bombs exploding and we naturally assume that the world has been destroyed. However, one cannot help wondering what will happen next, and what has become of this underground world of survivors. In 2001, we see the Star Child as he visits the Earth and we watch him destroy a bomb. At this point, one is already thoroughly confused and continues to wonder, what of this Star Child? Where will he go, what will he do, what will happen to Earth? Also in The Shining, yet another mystery is presented. What the viewer sees is a picture of a party at the Overlook in 1921 of which Jack Torrence was a part. This is a very strange and peculiar ending for the movie. One questions the life of Mr. Torrence and how he came to be a part of the present, when in fact, he was a part of the past. The end does little to answer the questions presented at the beginning. Here, Kubrick leaves the endings to be interpreted by the viewer.
Although these films were created with very different audiences in mind, they share a mastermind in movie-making. As a writer, producer, director, Stanley Kubrick has made his eternal mark on the film world. His unusual, yet effective techniques serve him well in making unforgettable movies. As one may very well notice, Kubrick s movies are made not only for the sole purpose of entertainment, but also for the sheer enjoyment of intellectual process. He makes the viewer see and understand, as well as think and interpret. This is what makes him a master film-maker.